Proportion of women in senior management falls to 2004 levels

Research from the 2011 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) reveals that women currently hold 20% of senior management positions globally, down from 24% in 2009, and up just 1% from 2004. In its quarterly survey of privately held businesses (PHBs) Grant Thornton also found that the percentage of PHBs that have no women in their senior management has risen to 38% compared to 35% in 2009.

Across the world, Thailand boasts the greatest percentage of women in senior management (45%), followed by Georgia (40%), Russia (36%), Hong Kong and the Philippines (both 35%). The countries with the lowest percentages are India, the United Arab Emirates and Japan where fewer than 10% of senior management positions are held by women.

April Mackenzie, Global head of public policy and external affairs commented “It is disappointing to see that the global proportion of women in senior management has shown no sign of growth, reverting instead to 2004 levels. Female executives appear to be bearing the brunt of the global economic downturn, however, many businesses are now feeling the pressure to review their policies, especially in light of recent government and media inquiries into the male dominance of boardrooms. Some businesses will need to examine their levels of support offered to women to fall in line with quotas on female board representation, a solution currently in discussion in some countries. Others, especially in some emerging markets, are already ahead of the competition.”

The data revealed that G7 countries lag behind the global average with only 16% of women holding senior roles whilst, regionally, Asia Pacific (excl. Japan) scores highest with 27%. Women have become most successful in increasing their share of senior management roles in Thailand, Hong Kong, Greece, Belgium and Botswana, where the percentage of women in these roles has risen by at least 7% since 2009.

Roles for women

Of the companies that employ women in senior managerial positions globally, 22% employ them in financial positions (eg Chief Financial Officer/Finance Director). This is followed by Human Resource Director (20%), Chief Marketing Officer and Sales Director (both 9%).

Globally just 8% of companies with women in senior managerial positions have a female Chief Executive Officer (CEO). However the story is different in Asian economies, Thailand leads the way with 30% of companies employing female CEOs, followed by mainland China (19%), Taiwan (18%) and Vietnam (16%).