Survey shows fewer women in top corporate roles in Singapore

Few women here get to do it.

That is, perched at the top in the corporate world, according to the latest survey on women's participation in leadership role.

It found that Singapore firms are among the least enthusiastic about putting women at the apex of their corporate structure. Female leaders given the most senior roles have dropped to 23 per cent in this year's study, down from 27 per cent last year, research from the Grant Thornton International Business Report showed. This is below the global average of 24 per cent, which was unchanged from a year ago. Compared with 10 years ago when 19 per cent of women were in senior management, the proportion is up by just five percentage points.

On a global scale, Singapore is ranked 33 out of 45 economies surveyed. Russia was the most advanced in this regard, with 43 per cent of its senior business roles held by women, followed by Indonesia (41 per cent). South-east Asian nations like Thailand (38 per cent), Vietnam (26 per cent) and Malaysia (25 per cent) also ranked ahead of Singapore in promoting women to top posts.

Japan was the worst among the economies surveyed, with only 9 per cent of women able to break the glass ceiling in the corporate jungle. Switzerland (13 per cent), the United Kingdom (20 per cent) and the United States (22 per cent) also fared relatively poorly.

About four in 10 firms here do not have a woman in senior roles, a rise from last year's 23 per cent. This was worse than the global average of 33 per cent. Things are worse if you are a woman in Europe, where 71 per cent of Danish firms and 67 per cent of German firms have no women leaders.

One area where Singapore slightly outperformed the world was in businesses' hiring of female graduates. The report found 21 per cent of the average global graduate intake is female, with Singapore's figure at 23 per cent.

Also, 70 per cent of Singapore firms give women access to continual professional development or education, the second best score behind just Peru.

Foo Kon Tan Grant Thornton audit partner Shirley Ang said: "There is no easy answer to this complex gender balance. I believe mind-set change and education, an essential building block of any career is fundamental." She said an encouraging sign is that more than three quarters of Singapore businesses offer working mothers unpaid leave, higher than the global 51 per cent average. The report interviewed 12,500 business leaders from 45 economies.

feimok@sph.com.sg