Survey report: Women holding senior management positions increases in China

Research from the 2011 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) reveals that women currently hold 34% of senior management positions in China, reflecting a steady rise from 31% in 2009, and 32% from 2007. Additionally, 19% of the female senior management performs as CEO in the companies, significantly higher than the global average level of 8%, ranking mainland China second in 39 surveyed economies.

Across the world, the research shows that women currently hold 20% of senior management positions globally, down from 24% in 2009, and up just 1% from 2004. Thailand boasts the greatest percentage of women in senior management (45%), followed by Georgia (40%) and Russia (36%). The countries with the lowest percentages are the United Arab Emirates (8%) and Japan (8%) where fewer than 10% of senior management positions are held by women.

Xu Hua, Chairman of Grant Thornton Jingdu Tianhua, says, “With China rising up to become an economic powerhouse, the society offers more and more opportunities for women’s development. The proportion of women receiving higher education grows in recent years, currently female take up 49% of the total university students. In the meantime, Chinese woman seems to be more aggressive than their counterparts in other countries. According to a research from Newsweek, 75% of Chinese career women longs to be senior management and the figure in the U.S. is only 50%.”

Roles for women
Of the companies that employ women in senior managerial positions in China, 69% employ them in financial positions (eg Chief Financial Officer/Finance Director). This is followed by Human Resource Director (43%), Sales Director (37%) and Chief Operating Officer (23%). In many cases, women take up various roles in a company, including head of Human Resource, CFO and operational officers etc.

The data also revealed that the proportion of female CEO in Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) region is much higher than that of Europe and the U.S. Thailand leads the way with 30% of companies employing female CEOs, followed by mainland China (19%), Taiwan (18%). The same number in EU countries and North America is only 9% and 5% respectively.

Guan Liming, senior partner of Grant Thornton Jingdu Tianhua, says, “The capability of female business leaders in China is no less than men. In some ways, they outperform the male leaders, such as team work, communication efficiency, coping with different tasks simultaneously. For their weakness, women business leaders tend to be more emotional than men. With more and more companies encouraging gender diversity and equal competition, we believe career women will have a very promising future.”

The research is carried out primarily by telephone interview and questionnaires, resulting a global sample of over 9,000 respondents. 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 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. In China the survey covers 300 companies including 100 state-owned and public companies and 200 privately held businesses.