A NEW SURVEY on women in business shows that 46.58% of those holding senior management posts in the Philippines are women, a proportion that is way above the global average of 24.14%.

That compares to 40% in 2017 and 39% in 2016.

Grant Thornton International Ltd.’s Women in Business report, which surveyed 4,500 senior executives across 35 countries, said the country’s top rank could be attributed to policies and practices such as equal pay for men and women performing the same roles, among others. Up to 80% of those surveyed cited this factor as the reason, the report said.

The survey also attributed the country’s ranking to non-discriminatory policies for recruitment (cited by 76% of respondents), paid parental leave (70%), and flexible hours (66%).

“These practices have been introduced by Filipino businesses in order to attract and keep employees, enhance company performance, comply with government legislation, live up to organizational values and meet the expectations of wider society,” Grant Thornton said in a statement.

Next to the Philippines, the country with the second highest proportion of women in senior leadership positions is Indonesia, with 42.56%, followed by Thailand, with 42.07%.

On a regional comparison, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had the highest average at 38.55%. Countries in the Baltics came out second with an average of 36.29%.

“Diversity in every sense is good for businesses,” the statement quoted Ma. Victoria C. Españo, chairperson and chief executive officer of P&A Grant Thornton, said in a statement.

“It encourages different ways of thinking and opens up new opportunities for growth. This is particularly relevant in a rapidly changing global business environment, as a wide range of perspectives will help businesses to better analyze and navigate new landscapes.”

She said that while the Philippines was highly regarded for its gender diversity in senior leadership, much more that can be done to foster diversity at that level.

“Make diversity and inclusion a core value in your business: Organizational values drive behavior, so it is important that the whole business is signed up to diversity and inclusion,” she said.

“Business leaders should set clear goals by which the business will measure progress. The key for creating real change is that business policies and practices are rooted in a genuine conviction of the benefit of diversity.”

Globally, Grant Thornton said businesses had taken “one step forward but one step back” in terms of women in leadership.

Significantly more businesses — 75% in 2018 versus 66% in 2017 — have at least one woman in senior management, but the proportion of the team that is female has slipped to 24% from 25%, the report noted.

Francesca Lagerberg, global leader for network capabilities and sponsor of women in leadership at Grant Thornton, said that while it was “hugely positive that women are in senior roles at more businesses, it’s disappointing that they are being spread so thinly.”

“This suggests businesses are concentrating on box-ticking at the expense of meaningful progress and means they will not gain from the benefits of true gender diversity. We need to move beyond policy and focus on the vital role leadership and culture can play in creating real progress in gender balance,” Ms. Lagerberg said.

“There is compelling evidence of the link between gender diversity in leadership and commercial success. The current volatility in the global economy and ongoing technological innovation and disruption makes the issue more important than ever.”

The report looked into the role of both business and government policy in bringing about change, Grant Thornton said.

The data show gender equality policies are “abundant and widespread,” with 81% of businesses adopting equal pay for men and women performing the same roles, and 71% implementing non-discrimination policies for recruitment, it said.

Measures that support working parents are also popular among businesses, including paid parental leave (59%), flexible hours (57%) and part-time working (54%), it added.

“However, there is no clear correlation between which, and how many, policies businesses have in place and the gender diversity of their senior management teams. No single policy seems to drive gender diversity, and the regions in which businesses have most policies in place — Africa, the EU and North America — demonstrate very different levels of gender diversity in business leadership,” it said.

The report said that companies were motivated to introduce gender equality policies to attract and keep employees (65%) and to live up to organizational values (65%).

It also said recruitment and retention were strategic priorities for businesses, while gender equality in leadership had become a core element of company branding.

“However, businesses say the barriers to introducing policies include the complexity of translating good intentions into practice (22%) and stereotypes about gender roles (21%),” it said.

Grant Thornton is one of the world’s leading independent assurance, tax and advisory firms. — Victor V. Saulon