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Thailand a leader in top promotions for women, global survey finds

The number of women in executive roles in Thailand continues to rise while global growth stagnates, according to research by international accounting firm Grant Thornton.

Ahead of International Women's Day today, Grant Thornton's "International Business Report" (IBR) conducted its annual survey of women in executive roles in the workplace around the world. The report reveals that despite a groundswell of discussion and debate, the proportion of women holding the top jobs around the world remains at just under a quarter.

The survey finds growing support for regulations around quotas to get women on to boards as well as several measures businesses can take to facilitate the career paths of women.

Globally the proportion of senior roles filled by women currently is 24 per cent. This is exactly the same proportion as in 2013, 2009 and 2007, and only 5 percentage points higher than the 19 per cent recorded 10 years ago in 2004 (IBR did not cover key economies such as Brazil, China and Indonesia that year). Regionally also, there has been very little significant change over the past decade.

Asean had strong representation, however, with three of its countries ranked in the top six in the world for having the highest number of women in executive roles. Indonesia (second at 41 per cent) and the Philippines (fourth at 40 per cent) were just marginally ahead of Thailand (sixth in the world at 38 per cent).

"In Thailand and in many places in Southeast Asia, it is not unusual for women to be in senior executive roles," said Sumalee Chokdeeanant, Grant Thornton assurance partner.

"Asia is a strongly family-orientated society and the female has always played a key role in the household, especially governing finances. Over time as business has grown, this has simply become the norm for us in Thailand. This is evidenced by a continuing growth trend of women in executive roles here.

"This will continue to expand through Asean as we see increased opportunities brought by the AEC [Asean Economic Community]. This will result in a demand for more employees generally, and the need to continually increase diversity in the workplace."

Greater diversity

Francesca Lagerberg, global leader for tax services at Grant Thornton, said the fact that greater diversity in decision-making produces better outcomes was no longer up for debate. For businesses, better decisions mean stronger growth, so it is in their interests to facilitate the path of women from the classroom to the boardroom.

The IBR also shows that support for the introduction of quotas to get more women on boards is growing. Globally, close to one in two business leaders (45 per cent) would now like to see quotas for the numbers of women on the boards of large listed companies, up from just over one in three (37 per cent) in 2013.

Support has grown sharply in the European Union (from 33 per cent to 41 per cent) where the imposition of quotas is most likely, but also in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies (41 per cent to 72 per cent), while support remains high in Latin America (68 per cent) and Asia-Pacific (57 per cent). Across the Group of Seven, however, only 33 per cent of business leaders support quotas.

"Many countries around the world recognise the importance of the balance between male and female executives," said Julaporn Namchaisiri, managing director of corporate finance at Grant Thornton.

"Even in Japan, where the proportion of women executives is just 9 per cent, ranked last in the league table, our survey indicates that over one-fifth of respondents support quotas in order to increase the percentage of women on boards of directors or plans to promote women to senior management roles over the next 12 months. This is a good sign for board diversity globally."

The IBR provides insight into the views and expectations of more than 12,500 businesses per year across 45 economies.

This survey draws upon 22 years of trend data for most European participants and 11 years for many non-European economies.

IBR is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. The data for this release have been drawn from interviews with 6,700 chief executive officers, managing directors, chairmen or other senior executives from all industry sectors conducted between November and last month.


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