• Women in business 2017

An overview of the proportion of senior Asia Pacific business roles held by women, as emerging economies drive improvements in diversity

On International Women’s Day, a report based on Grant Thornton’s annual survey of 5,500 businesses in 36 economies reveals that the proportion of senior business roles held by women in the Asia Pacific has risen from 23% in 2016 to 25% in 2017. This has been driven by improvements in emerging countries in the region, which saw the proportion of senior roles held by women rise from 26% in 2016 to 29% in 2017, while in developed countries the percentage remained static at 13%. However, the results of the survey also revealed that the percentage of businesses with no women in senior management across Asia Pacific has also risen, from 31% in 2016 to 35% in 2017.

In Thailand, women hold 31% of senior roles in 2017 which is one of the top three countries in Asia Pacific after Indonesia (46%) and the Philippines (40%). This year the research also showed that 25% of businesses in Thailand have no women in senior management, up from 21% last year. The senior management role with the most females in Thailand is CEO (40%) and CFO (34%). Globally, the travel, tourism and leisure industry have the highest proportion of women in senior management (37%).

Noel Ashpole, Partner at Grant Thornton in Thailand said "This year businesses across Asia Pacific have increased the proportion of senior roles held by women, however, further progress is needed. In particular, the increase in the percentage of businesses with no women in senior management is disappointing and there is a need for businesses to recognising the untapped potential that women can bring to a management team”.

"Whilst Thailand continues to be in the top three countries with women in senior positions, however, the trend is decreasing indicating the need for a continued effort to support women in the workplace. These results indicate that we could end up facing the same problem as developed Asia Pacific countries which only has 13% women in leadership positions. The balance between motherhood and career is one of the biggest challenges for Thai women, since having a family is often a significant priority. As a result, many have to choose between having a family and having a successful and fulfilling career due to the lack in supporting infrastructure."

Globally, Grant Thornton’s data shows developing regions continue to lead the charge on diversity with developed economies lagging behind. Eastern Europe performs best, with 38% of senior roles held by women in 2017 and just 9% of businesses with no women in senior management. Meanwhile the MINT economies (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) saw the most improvement, with the proportion of senior roles held by women rising from 24% in 2016 to 28% in 2017 and the percentage of businesses with no women in senior management falling from 36% in 2016 to 27% in 2017.

This is a significant contrast to the major economies of the G7, which have remained static at 22% of senior roles held by women and 39% of businesses with no women in senior management. Developed APAC was at the bottom of the table with just 13% of senior roles held by women and 54% of businesses with no women in senior management, the worst performance of any region on both measures.

Noel commented "The data for major economies is discouraging. The reasons for this lack of progress are many and varied, and they depend on the culture of individual businesses and the broader culture of the country or region in which they sit. However, this year we encountered a concerning sense that the issue has plateaued, as companies perhaps assume the diversity challenge has been dealt with. The evidence tells us this is not the case."

"Companies today need to be more productive, more innovative and in many ways more open if they are to grow. Diversity will be key to their success. Those that remain closed are putting themselves at risk of not tapping in to their full potential, and losing access to diversity of thinking."