Survey: Fewer women in executive posts
Updated: 2012-03-08 08:12
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Number declines from year before but remains above world average
Women held a quarter of the senior management positions in businesses on the Chinese mainland in 2011, a survey has found.
That figure has declined from the 34 percent of such positions that were held by women the year before but is still higher than the world average of 21 percent, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report, a quarterly survey of business leaders from around the world.
Carol Cheng, director of transaction advisory services with Grant Thornton China, said the decrease might be a result of the greater pressures some women find themselves under.
"The female executives in the survey, who were between the ages of 30 and 50, have to work and also have a family to attend to," Cheng said.
"When they reach an executive position, mounting pressure can push them to return home or inspire them to chase their personal dreams."
The report, released just before the advent of International Women's Day on Thursday, suggested that most female executives continue to work in departments and fields that have been filled largely with women in the past - in human resources and finance positions, for instance. Few of their jobs require them to make important decisions.
The 100 mainland companies surveyed in the report said the women they employ in executive positions most often were chief operating officers. Women held 45 percent of those jobs.
The survey also found that women second-most often were directors of human-resource departments, holding 41 percent of such positions at the companies, and third-most often were chief financing officers, holding 39 percent of those positions at the companies.
At the same time, the respondents said only 9 percent of the chief executive officers they employed were women.
In total, the survey looked at 11,500 companies in 40 countries and regions. Within those, female executives were also most often in human-resources positions, taking up 21 percent of the available positions. After that, women were most often working as chief operating officers, holding 12 percent of those positions, and as chief executive officers, holding 9 percent of those positions.
Xu Hua, chief managing partner and CEO of Grant Thorton China, said most female executives in China work as chief operating officers because such positions at small and medium-sized companies tend to have undefined duties.
Various top executives, meanwhile, argue that having feminine qualities can help a person win promotion.
Anthea Wang, vice-president of public relations and media communications at Daimler Northeast Asia Ltd and Mercedes-Benz (China) Ltd, said women enjoy certain advantages that, during negotiations, can help parties that are at odds on some issue reach common ground.
Wang, the first female employee of Mercedes-Benz on the Chinese mainland, has herself been able to use communication to move several projects forward. In 2010, she initiated Mercedes-Benz Star Fund, a charity program of 30 million yuan ($4.75 million), which is the biggest CSR fund for Daimler and Mercedes-Benz outside of Germany.
"You can change things in ways you never could even imagine," she said.
Of all countries, Russia has the most female executives; 46 percent of the senior management positions there are held by women.
Next in the ranking are Botswana, Thailand and the Philippines, where women hold 39 percent of such positions.
Countries with the lowest percentages in that regard were Japan, where women hold less than 5 percent of executive positions, and Germany, where they hold less than 13 percent.
China's ranking places it higher in the list than France, Switzerland, Britain, the United States and other developed economies.
Cheng attributed the country's spot to its having a large number of women in its workforce, to the existence of the well-known proverb that says "women hold up half of the sky" and to the support Chinese working women usually receive from their families.
"Most grandparents in China are willing to care for their grandchildren full time so that young mothers can go back to work sooner," Cheng said.
Cheng, the mother of a 9-year-old, said it is hard for women who lack support from their families to strike a balance between their work and their lives.
Xu said women should be allowed to work flexible hours so they can attend to both their jobs and their families.
Only 24 percent of Chinese companies have followed similar suggestions, a percentage that is far smaller on the Chinese mainland than it is in many other countries and regions, and only slightly above the comparable figures for Japan and Taiwan.
"More flexible working hours will let a greater proportion of women achieve senior positions in the future," Xu said.
Wang said managers should adopt a neutral system to appraise women's performances.
She said current evaluation methods look at a person's decisiveness and air of authority and are therefore not suited to gauging female executives' abilities.
A system that recognizes someone with a spirit of cooperation or who is willing to participate can help to promote women to top management positions, she said.
Cheng said women should not spend large amount of time thinking about how their gender affects their careers.
"Do your job well, be professional and work hard," she said. "You will be rewarded."
A market economy places no hurdles before women, said Zhou Xiaoguang, a National People's Congress deputy and chairman of Neoglory Holding Group, a company that produces accessories for women.
"Women often get a lot of support from businessmen."
She said it would be counterproductive to adopt policies that favor women at work.
"When competition is intense, policies that are favorable specifically to women only raise the cost of having female employees," said Zhou, whose company's research and development team is half composed of women.
"Women should have to struggle just like men."
Zhou Yan contributed to this story.