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Global survey finds women make up less than a quarter of APAC business leaders

A global survey by Grant Thornton reveals that the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region continues to make slow progress in getting women into senior roles within companies.

Its latest annual survey of 5,520 businesses in 36 economies highlights that just 23% of senior management roles in APAC are held by women. APAC countries with the highest proportions of leadership roles held by women are Philippines (39%), Thailand (37%) and Indonesia (36%), while the lowest proportions are reported in Japan (7%), New Zealand (19%) and Australia (23%).

The new research also finds that almost one in three (31%) APAC businesses have no women in leadership. In New Zealand that number is even higher at 42%, a startling increase from 37% last year.

In terms of the percentage of senior positions held by women, New Zealand’s results remain unchanged from last year, which showed a significant drop from 31% in 2014, and still well below our long run 12-year average of 27%. This keeps us at 28th place. 

Stacey Davies, Partner, Privately Held Business at Grant Thornton New Zealand, said “Back in 2004, we could be proud of our third position on the league table of other countries surveyed, but now we’ve formed part of the global report’s “bottom 10” group. This demonstrates our dwindling numbers of women in senior management and the percentage of businesses with no women in these roles at all.

“The continuing downward trend for no female representation in senior management roles for New Zealand businesses is concerning. The global average has remained relatively static over the last five years at around 33%; in New Zealand we’re currently sitting at 42% this year compared to 26% in 2012, so we’re clearly moving in the wrong direction.

“Progress in developed economies is simply not happening fast enough. Companies across developed nations have talked the talk on diversity in leadership for long enough. It’s time to put their promises into practice and deliver results.

“There is no one size fits all solution to the world’s leadership diversity shortfall but, as outlined in our new report, making progress will require the collaboration of companies, governments and women”.   

Davies says that societal norms around leadership and the implementation of remuneration parity need to be addressed. The report explores how businesses approach leadership and what leaders, especially female leaders, are looking for.

Women are more concerned about the recognition of their ability and earning a higher salary than men, which could reflect the ingrained biases they have faced on their way to the top. Men usually take it as read that their efforts will be appropriately rewarded, this is unfortunately not always the case among women.

Companies need to look to redefine leadership in a manner that will attract women to senior roles – that means recognising the need for collaboration and dialogue. Businesses need to create environments in which women feel confident that they will be heard and valued, and know they will be supported through transitions and difficult moments. The proper mechanisms to ensure that leadership is compatible with family commitments should also be in place.

“We know that businesses with diverse workforces can outperform their more homogenous peers and are better positioned to adapt to a rapidly changing global business environment – if opportunities are likely to change, a wide range of perspectives is critical to navigating new landscapes,” says Davies

The full report Women in Business 2016: Turning promise into practice will be available from 8 March.

For further information please contact:

Stacey Davies
Partner, Privately Held Business
Grant Thornton New Zealand
T +64 (0)9 308 2591
M +64 (0)21 858 050

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