Over 85 percent of businesses polled in Singapore have at least one woman on the senior management team, an increase of 9% over the past year, Grant Thornton’s 2019 Women in Business report. This is on par with the global average of 87% (with an increase of 12% over 2018) but below ASEAN’s 94%, according to the latest Women in Business research from Grant Thornton International, released to coincide with International Women’s Day 2019.
In Singapore, women now make up 33% of the senior management team – the highest it has ever been. This proportion is ahead of ASEAN’s 28% and the global average of 29%. This is aligned with the upward global trend, where the proportion of women in senior management has risen 10% over the last 15 years globally, with half of the increase achieved over the last year alone.
Gender parity is still a way off
While the number of women in senior leadership is increasing, gender parity at the head of the table is still a significant way off. When it comes to the role of CEO or managing director, only 15% of businesses globally have a woman leading the business. In Singapore, only 9% of businesses polled have a female CEO, lagging behind ASEAN’s 21% by a significant proportion. This demonstrates that while there are increasingly more women getting a seat at the senior leadership table, gender parity in top roles is still a long way off.
While human resources represent the largest proportion of women in senior management roles in Singapore – 41% of businesses polled in Singapore have a female Human Resources Director – it has yet to translate to more women taking the top job.
In Singapore, 28% of all respondents – and importantly, the majority of female respondents (52%) – say that their businesses are not taking any actions to improve gender balance. This is both higher than the ASEAN average of 12% and the global average of 25%.
Francesca Lagerberg, global leader, Grant Thornton International says: “The global figures are incredibly encouraging and a strong indication that gender parity is starting to be taken seriously by businesses. External factors such as increasing organizational transparency, gender pay gap reporting and highly visible public dialogue like the #MeToo movement appear to be making businesses wake up to the change that is needed.”
Lorraine Parkin, partner and head of tax services at Grant Thornton Singapore, comments: “If we want to continue seeing female representation trend upwards in senior positions, more deliberate action needs to be taken and leaders will play a critical role. While Singapore’s progressive stance has been championed by organizations including the Council for Board Diversity and the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), companies can step up to do more."
“The Singapore data has shown that finding the time alongside core job responsibilities and lack of access to developmental work opportunities are two key barriers that prevent women from acquiring the skills and attributes to be successful in their leadership roles. Policies that address equal opportunity in career development, bias in recruitment and flexible working can’t just be a nice to have – they must be adhered to, enforced and regularly revisited to assess their effectiveness and when that is combined with the real commitment from senior leadership, you begin creating a truly inclusive culture.”