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.
The survey, which is conducted annually by Grant Thornton, also reveals that the global average of women in senior management positions has slipped from 24% in 2009 to now only 20%.
Nordic countries worse
The impressive position of Thailand in the survey is not shared by the Nordic companies in Thailand. In fact, members companies of the four Nordic chambers of commerce all drag the average down.
Members of the Thai-Finnish Chamber boast the highest percentage of the four with 20% of women in management. The Thai-Swedish Chamber has the lowest percentage of 16%. Members of the Danish-Thai and Thai-Norwegian Chambers have respectively 19% and 18%.
..even worse than back home
Three of the four Nordic companies in Thailand all have a lower percentage of women in management than in their home country.
The exception is Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce, whose members have 19% women in management positions – while back in Denmark the percent is only 12%. But that is also so low that it almost represents half the global average.
As for members of the Thai-Swedish Chamber of Commerce the number of of women in management positions in private companies came out as 16% in the survey – compared to a national average back in Sweden of 27%. In the public sector, Sweden has set goals for women required in managerial positions which is now 56%. The actual percentage however still has not managed to fit the ratio.
As for members of the Thai-Norwegian Chamber of Commerce, women occupy 18% of management positions – compared to an unknown national average in Norway as that country was not part of the survey Norwegian law requires that women make up at least 40% of the members of all official committees, boards, councils, and delegations.
Only the members of the Thai-Finnish Chamber of Commerce come with the 20% of women in management close to the average back in Finland of 25%.
Thai business culture
Ms. Achara Boonyahansa, Business Development Director of Grant Thornton Thailand, explains the high Thai score as culturally based:
“Thailand’s working culture provides equal opportunity to both men and women to reach senior management levels,” she says.
“Companies committed to diversifying their leadership mostly ensure that women have equal shots at ‘stretch’ assignments such as serving on company-wide task forces, being part of a start-up or turnaround operations, and gaining international experience. Top women emphasize their love of their jobs, and the hard work it took to get there. They ask for the challenging assignment. They are totally committed.”
“Being single or getting married late could be causes for Thai women being able to climb up corporate ladders. They are more likely to put in extra hours at work,” she added.
“Moreover, for married ones, they own the ability to balance work with their personal lives, with support from extended family to take care of their children. Employers also play supporting role by including work-life programs in organizations such as maternity and childbirth leave, flexible work schedules, job-sharing, part-time work, compressed work weeks, and reduced duties, all of which offer women the flexibility to manage home-work conflicts as best suits them, while maintaining productivity levels. In some cases, guarantees are offered to individuals to safeguard their position or level of seniority and the continuation of their health and other benefits. In addition, companies often offer programs such as satellite workplace, which utilize new technologies to enable employees to work from home for at least some part of their working week.”
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%).
The research behind the survey was carried out primarily by telephone interview lasting approximately 15 minutes with the exception of Japan (postal), Philippines and Armenia (face to face), mainland China and India (mixture of face-to-face and telephone) where cultural differences dictate a tailored approach. Telephone interviews enable Grant Thornton International to conduct the exact number of recommended interviews and to be certain that the most appropriate individuals are interviewed in an organisation which meets the profile criteria.
Data collection is managed by Grant Thornton International’s core research partner – Experian Business Strategies. Questionnaires are translated into local languages with each participating country having the option to ask a small number of country specific questions in addition to the core questionnaire. The women in business data consists of responses gathered in Q4 2010 and Q1 2011, resulting a global sample of over 9,000 respondents. Sample IBR is a survey of medium to large privately held businesses, researching the opinions of over 11,000 businesses annually.
The target respondents are chief executive officers, managing directors, chairmen or other senior executives (title dependent on what is most appropriate for the individual country) from 39 economies primarily across five industries: manufacturing (25 per cent), services (25 per cent), retail (15 per cent) and construction (ten per cent) with the remaining 25 per cent spread across all industries.
Locally, the sample tends to cover the industries mentioned previously, with some countries being able to have local valid data for specific sectors or regions when the sample size is large enough.
Grant Thornton is recognised as one of the leading professional service firms helping many clients successfully navigating the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s, applying a mixture of techniques including debt restructuring, cost cutting and business plan revision. The compoany’s services include business consulting, external and internal auditing service, domestic and international tax planning, corporate finance advisory, restructuring and reorganization, merger and acquisition, forensic/investigation, risk management, finance & tax due diligence, transaction support, valuation, exit strategies, executive recruitment, succession planning and remuneration planning.