Grant Thronton: Women in business -- the path to leadership

Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) reveals that 25% of senior management positions of businesses in mainland China are held by women, higher than the global average level (22%). The report shows that female in China still have advantages in management support positions, such as human resources and finance. 30% of human resource directors and 23% of CFOs are held by women according to the survey. However, only 7% of CEOs and 5% of partners are women, which presents male’s dominant position in core management of businesses in mainland China.

Differentcareer path

The research includes a comparative analysis in male and female’s promotionpaths and factors related to career development. Among all the respondents, 86%of female senior business leaders in mainland China enter the business as astaff below senior management, including 34% of them entering the business as aschool/university graduate and 52% of them as an experienced hire. Thatproportion for male in mainland China is only 66%, including 30% as aschool/university graduate and 36% as an experienced hire. The proportion ofmale who enter directly into senior management or as business founder reach 18%and 16% respectively, also higher than women. Women only apply for promotion orget delegation when they are believed that they’ve met 100% of the criteria,while society shows more confidence in men.

Meanwhile, the research reveals the networking methods male and female useare also different. Formal business meeting is the most used occasion cited bywomen (51%) where they can most possibly find job opportunity, while men preferseizing job opportunity through networking events or conferences. Additionally,men are also more active in other social occasions, such as drinks after workand cultural/sporting events. Female respondents tend to use online networks more,35.4% of female respondents seek job opportunity through online networks, whileonly 23% of male respondents use online networks for job opportunity.

Xu Hua, CEO of Grant Thornton China, says: "the social platformsfor women’s career development still seem to be limited, and business meetingsare still their major networking channel. Majority of women are expected todedicate themselves to family after work, so they have less social time andprefer online networking. Besides, certain networking opportunities like golf arealways dominated by men and few women would join them. It would be great ifmore women learn to develop their interest in sports so they can have more opportunitiesto communicate with peers and thus facilitate their career development.”

Moresupports needed for women’s career development

Parenthood (41%) and family pressures (37%) areseen as the main barriers for women to advance into senior management roles. Womenare requested more in bringing up child and engaging in familialresponsibility, which hinders women’s career development to some extent. Meanwhile,gender bias still exists. However, the opinion of male and female on this issueis quite different. According to the survey, 17% of female senior businessleaders regard gender bias as the key factor impeding women’s careerdevelopment, but only 2% of male senior business leaders support the view. Itsuggests that men still take the most of senior management positions yet theytake different views with women on whether gender bias is really eradicated.

Xu Hua says: “due to deep-rooted social norm, evenif the factor of gender has little influence at the beginning of a career, itwill somehow impact the further development of a woman’s career. We hopegovernment can provide more legislative supports, such as mandating quotas forwomen on boards, facilitating shared parental leave, promotion of flexibleworking time and other measures to guarantee and encourage women’s careerdevelopment. And each business should fully understand the role that femalesenior business leaders play in business development is quite important, theyshould reduce gender bias, and provide more development opportunities to women.”

Eastern European leads the ranking

Globally, 22% of senior roles are held by women, slightlyup from 19% in 2004. Theproportion of women reaching the top tier of the business world has shownlittle progress over the past decade. Eastern Europeancountries dominate the international league table for senior female businessleaders. Seven of the top ten countries are from the eastern Europe, withRussia (40%) beingnumber one and its near neighbours follow the list:Georgia (38%), Poland (37%), Latvia (36%), Estonia (35%) and Lithuania (33%). Japanremains at the bottom of the list with just 8% of senior roles held by women, below Germany(14%) and India (15%).

The research showssignificant variation in the proportion of female senior business leader indifferent industries. The proportion in service industries is the highest, suchas education (41%), healthcare (41%) and hospitality (33%). However, malesenior business leaders are still in a dominant position in relativelytraditional industries, such as manufacturing (19%), transport (19%), construction& real estate(18%) and mining & quarrying (12%).

For more information, please read the full report.