The top three Asian countries with the highest proportion of women in the high-level corporate positions are Philippines (47%), Indonesia (43%) and Thailand (42%), whereas Japan (5%), Australia (15%) and India (20%) are at the bottom of the ranking, said Grant Thornton.
The company published yesterday its Women in Business 2018 report to coincide with International Women’s Day. The report is based on a survey of 4,995 businesses in 35 countries.
While the percentage of businesses with at least one woman in senior management in Asia Pacific has increased from 65% in 2017 to 71% in 2018, the proportion of senior business roles held by women in the region has slightly decreased by 2 percentage points to 23% this year, Grant Thornton said.
However, there is also significant variation when it comes to the gender diversity in senior roles. For instance, the percentage of senior roles held by women in India increased from 17% to 20%, extending a consistent improvement year on year from 14% in 2014, while women in Japan remain under-represented in senior teams with only 5% of senior roles held by women.
In China, percentage of senior roles held by women remained stable at 31% in 2018, and only 12% of businesses, with no women in senior management, down 11 percentage points from last year.
Globally, 75% of businesses with at least one woman in the senior management team in 2018, up by 9 percentage points year on year, according to the report.
No clear correlation between gender equality policies and progress
While gender equality policies are important, Grant Thornton said there is no clear correlation between which, and how many policies businesses have in place and the gender diversity of their senior management teams.
Survey respondents state that, rather than specific policies being the solution, it is the environment into which they are introduced that makes difference on gender diversity in leadership, the firm added.
“You can have every policy in the book, but if that book never gets taken off the shelf and used, then the polies are only words,” said Francesca Lagerberg, global leader for network capabilities and sponsor of women in leadership at Grant Thornton International.
“Policies can set the parameter, context and direction of travel but they won’t achieve anything if the underlying culture hasn’t changed,” she noted. “How people are treated, the way leaders live and breathe and deliver on issues of gender diversity, are far more important than specific policies.”
In addition, more than half of business leaders say enhancing company performance was a driver to introducing gender equality policies, according to the report.
However, there is no evidence that firms that want to enhance performance are more likely to have gender diversity in leadership, the report indicates.
The two countries most driven by the desire to enhance company performance are the Philippines, which demonstrates high levels of gender diversity and Singapore, which has lower female representation, Grant Thornton observed.