Page last updated at 00:19 GMT, Thursday, 8 March 2007

'No women chiefs' in 38% of firms

Female worker
Pay for women lags behind their male counterparts

Almost four in 10 businesses worldwide do not employ a female in a senior management position, a survey suggests.

The number of firms without a woman in a top role is unchanged from four years ago, the report by Grant Thornton said.

Published on International Women's Day, the study said that only 25% of Japanese companies had a woman in one of its main positions.

A separate study reported a 40% drop in women in senior management roles at UK FTSE 350 firms between 2002 and 2007.

A new-found entrepreneurial streak and the surging cost of childcare may be responsible for that trend said Sarah Churchman, head of diversity at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which commissioned the report.

"They are creating problems for the future," she told The Guardian. "Women are exiting corporate life."


The Grant Thornton study said that 64% of UK firms had at least one woman in a top-level role.

1. Philippines - 97%
2. China - 91%
3. Malaysia - 85%
4. Brazil - 83%
5. Hong Kong - 83%
Source: Grant Thornton

This was less than Greece (73%), mainland China (91%) and the Philippines (97%).

The executive director of public policy for Grant Thornton International, April Mackenzie, said the finding that just 38% of businesses had a woman in senior management was unchanged from a similar study in 2004.

"It is disappointing that the participation of women in senior business management has not increased more dramatically over the last three years," she said.

"It is, however, encouraging to see some of the Asian economies leading the way.

In Britain thousands of women remain in poverty and all women workers suffer from the gulf of pay between men and women
Diana Holland

"North American and European businesses in particular continue to lag behind."


Earlier this year, a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission said that only 10% of directors of the UK's FTSE 100 firms were women, while under 20% of people in parliament were female.

Change had been "painfully slow" in recent decades and ethnic minority women are notably missing in top roles, it said.

The commission calculated that, to begin redressing the imbalance, a further 6,000 women should be in top positions.

1. Japan - 25%
2. Netherlands - 27%
3. Luxembourg - 37%
4. Germany - 41%
5. Italy - 42%
Source: Grant Thornton

It added that to counter the discrepancy between men and women in top roles, everyone should have the right to request flexible working.

More high-quality, well-paid flexible and part-time work also needed to be available, it said.

Meanwhile, the UK Transport and General Workers Union on Thursday called for a further increase in the national minimum wage to narrow the poverty and gender pay gap.

"All over the world people will be celebrating the achievements of women and campaigning for gender equality," said Diana Holland, the union's organiser for women, race and equalities.

"Yet in Britain thousands of women remain in poverty and all women workers suffer from the gulf of pay between men and women.

"At current trends, young women will be nearing the end of their working lives when the pay gap closes and their great granddaughters will be in their forties before the part-time pay gap closes."

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