Women still making slow progress up the corporate ladder

women at work

More women are making it into senior management roles than at any time since 2010, according to new research published today to mark International Women’s Day, but predictably, progress is slow. The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) finds that globally, 24 per cent of senior management roles are now filled by women, up from 21 per cent in 2012 and 20 per cent in 2011. However, in the G7 group of developed economies just 16 per cent of board members are women. Meanwhile, a report published by Calvert Investments finds that corporate American is still failing to put substantial numbers of women and minorities into board rooms.

The key findings in the Calvert report, which carried out an audit on the diversity practices of the US’ Standard & Poor’s 100 Index are a useful reminder of why in the 21st century an International Woman’s Day is still observed. Alhough women are often now hired as frequently as men at S&P100 companies, their representation in management roles decreases with each step up the corporate ladder. Well over half (56 per cent) have no women or minorities in their highest-paid senior executive positions. And while women make up 19 per cent of the top 100 board of director positions, they represent only 8 per cent of the highest-paid executives.

And the IBR report paints a similar picture, revealing that the G7 economies come bottom of the league table with just 21 per cent of senior roles occupied by women, compared to 28 per cent in the BRIC economies, 32 per cent in South East Asia and 40 per cent in the Baltic states. Flexible working does not appear to be a determining factor in getting women into top positions. 72 per cent of businesses in the poor-performing G7 countries provide flexible working, while in top of the table China only 27 per cent of businesses offer flexible working, and only 40 per cent in the BRIC economies.

In addition, 55 per cent 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, incoming Global leader of Tax at Grant Thornton International Ltd, commented: “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.”

Last year a proposal to introduce mandatory quotas for women on the boards of listed companies in the EU, championed by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding provoked much opposition, particularly in the UK, where today a new campaign is launched which encourages women to take personal responsibility for their own career development.  This is based on the ‘Focus on the Pipeline report’ produced by everywoman and Alexander Mann Solutions which showed that 63 per cent of HR leaders want to see women driving their own advancement and that many female middle managers expect their employers to take much – if not all – of the responsibility for career path clarity and opportunities for progression.

Maxine Benson, co-founder of everywoman, explained: “HR leaders are keen to improve the talent pipeline of women in their businesses and see more women driving their career. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to give women the tools they need to take charge of their own development.”

Click here to download the IBR report.

The Getting Started Guide to Ambition Hour can be downloaded from www.everywoman.com/ambitionhour