Grant Thornton: A growing percentage of female leaders in mainland China businesses

Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) reveals that women now hold 30% of the leadership roles in mainland Chinese businesses, ranking 9th among all major economies investigated. That’s five percentage points higher than the figure reported in last year’s report and six percentage points higher than the global average of 24%. The number of businesses without women in leadership roles has dropped to 16%, down from 25% last year and well below the global average of 33%, which shows that female business leaders play an increasingly important role in mainland businesses.

Female leaders more willing to promote strategic change

When asked what drives them to take on leadership roles, women and men had different responses. Among women, 43.9% said that promoting business strategy and effect change in a company is the strongest driver for them to become leaders, while among men, 46.5% named higher pay as the strongest driver. And men are more driven by recognition of ability (44.2%) and prestige and the ability to be influential (37.2%), while the percentage of women is 32.9% and 29.3% respectively. Meanwhile, 23.2% of women said they have strong belief in the purpose of the business, while only 16.3% of men agreed.

XuHua, CEO of Grant Thornton China said: “The report shows that male leaders appear to be more interested in the personal benefits that come from a senior position, such as higher income and social standing, while women appear to be more interested in promoting business development. Women leaders seem to be more dedicated to driving their companies toward achieving goals, and appear to exhibit more love and commitment for their jobs.”

Communication ability valued most

When asked what constitutes good leadership, most leaders in mainland China businesses said they value communication ability most, with about 44.2% of men and 46.3% of women holding this view. Moreover, 34.9% of men and 34.1% of women said that the ability to deal with complexity is an important quality of a good leader.

There were disparities in some areas. About 26.8% of women leaders said they value a positive attitude, as opposed to only 14% of male leaders. And about 20.9% of men said that the ability to delegate tasks well is important, as opposed to only 3.7% of women. The report shows that women think more highly of cooperation, while men think more highly of assigning tasks.

XuHua said, “Good communication ability is essential for every business leader. Through effective communication of company strategy and goals, leaders can drive their employees to achieve the company’s vision. Conversely, open communication between employees and management allows companies to respond quickly when issues arise.”

Globally, nearly one fourth of business leaders are female

Globally, about 24% of all business leaders are now female, which is two percentage points higher than last year. However, 33% of the world’s companies have no female leaders at all. G7 countries were found to have the lowest percentage of female leaders at 22%, with 39% of companies having no female leaders at all. Japan and Germany ranked lowest among 36 major economies at 7% and 15%, respectively. Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia have the highest percentage of women leaders at 35% and 34%, respectively, with just 16% and 21% of companies having no female leaders. Among 36 major economies, Russia ranks first with 45% of its company leaders being female, while the Philippines ranks second with 39%.

Xu Hua said: “Developed economies have been talking about gender diversity for years, and it’s now time to deliver on those promises. In a globalized business environment, gender diversity can boost productivity and help a company to adapt to changes better than companies with only male leaders.”

For more information, please read the full report