Women in the UK lag behind the Far East for career progression

Around the world more women are making it into senior management roles than at any time since 2010, but progress is slower in Europe and the US than in Asia and the Far East, according to research from the Grant Thornton International Business Report.

The data shows that globally 24% of senior management roles are now filled by women. This is up from 21% in 2012 and 20% in 2011. However, the G7 economies come bottom of the league table with just 21% of senior roles occupied by women. This compares to 28% in the BRIC economies, 32% in South East Asia and 40% in the Baltic states.

Francesca Lagerberg, Head of tax at Grant Thornton UK and incoming Global leader of Tax at Grant Thornton International Ltd, said: “The pioneer economies where economic growth is high have greater diversity in their senior management teams. Women are playing a major role in driving the world’s growth economies, bringing balance to the decision making process and the smooth running of their companies. In comparison, the mature economies of the G7 are now playing catch up. They need to wake up to gender disparity and add this crucial ingredient to long-term growth and profitability.”

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Japan (7% of senior roles occupied by women, the worst performer), the UK (19%) and the USA (20%) are in the bottom eight countries for women in senior management. These economies are also experiencing low levels of growth, with GDP in Japan (1.9%), the UK (-0.1) and the USA (2.2%) in 2012 all modest. In contrast, top of the table for women in senior management is China, with 51%. GDP growth for 2012 there is expected to be between 7-8%. The top 10 also contains the growth economies of Latvia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines.

The situation is even starker when looking at boardroom positions, says the report. In the G7, just 16% of board members are women. This compares to 26% in the BRIC economies and 38% in the Baltic states.

The data reveals that flexible working, while welcomed by many, does not appear to be a determining factor in getting women into top positions. 72% of businesses in the poor-performing G7 countries provide flexible working, while in top of the table China only 27% of businesses offer flexible working, and only 40% in the BRIC economies.

In addition, 55% of businesses worldwide said they would be against the idea of quotas for the number of women on executive boards of large listed companies.

Francesca Lagerberg added: “Things are heading in the right direction, but it is slow progress. Flexible working is not the only determining factor in increasing female participation in senior positions. In mature economies, the majority of businesses offer it, but that isn’t translating into more women in senior roles or making it on to the board. At the same time, businesses are telling us that they do not believe enforced quotas are the answer.

“In the absence of quotas, what will ultimately spur businesses on to include more women in senior roles is the belief that their performance will improve and their growth will be healthier if they do so. What our research shows is that it is good practice, and those regions adopting it are currently outperforming those who aren’t.”





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