International Women’s Day Highlights Women in Business

International Women’s Day Highlights Women in Business

8 March 2011 marked the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day. The occasion would be more remarkable, perhaps, if the strides made by women in all aspects of life over the past 100 years were greater and less transitory. Nevertheless, as it is a celebration, we look at how successfully women have conquered business and the results are quite surprising.

The 2011 Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) survey reveals that when it comes to women in senior management, Thailand comes up tops. Percentage-wise women occupy 45% of senior management positions in Thailand. Georgia (not the US state), Russia, Hong Kong and the Philippines also scored highly while India, the UAE and Japan fell below the global average – which is 20%.

Sadly, that 20% is down from 24% in 2009 and, according to Asiaone Business, is only 1% above the figures in 2004. Conversely, the percentage of businesses that have no women in senior management has risen. The figure now stands at 38%, up 3% from 2009.

If we step it up a notch and look at women CEOs, the global picture is bleak with only 8% of companies operating with a female chief executive officer. But once again Thailand sets the standard with 30% of companies employing women CEOs. In fact, when it comes to empowering women, it seems that the rest of the world could learn something from Asia as Thailand was followed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In the UK, which one would expect to be more dedicated to equal opportunities, only 23% of company board positions are held by women. According to the Thornton survey, Poland is best country for women in terms of senior management as they occupy 31% of the positions. Sweden follows with 30%. CEO-wise only 3% of British companies have a women CEO; the average in the EU is 10%.

Women at the helm = big returns

It appears that companies with a glass ceiling may lose out when it comes to reaping financial rewards.

Janet McFarland (of CTV News) cites several studies that have found a correlation between women in senior management positions and financial returns:

• Catalyst examined Fortune 500 companies in the US in the four years between 1996 and 2000 and found return on equity and shareholder returns were significantly higher (over 34% higher) in companies that had women in top management positions than those that didn’t.
• Catalyst performed a similar study in 2007 with even larger discrepancies between companies with and without women in senior management.
• Also in 2007, McKinsey & Co. showed that European companies with a high number of women in senior positions outperformed companies without a significantly lower percentage of high-powered women.
• Professor Roy Adler, of Pepperdine University, studied 200 Fortune 500 companies between 1980 and 2001 and found that the top 25 firms with high ranking women outperformed companies that consistently promoted men above women. The professor confirmed the results in four follow-up studies conducted between 2004 and 2007.

While the results of these studies are all extremely heartening for women, McFarland points out that a correlation doesn’t prove causality. Instead, she says that the results could indicate that companies that promote deserving women may have sound management policies that improve the overall running of the company.

Which still goes to show that having women in senior management positions makes sound business sense.

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