THE successful tiger economies of the Far East have far larger numbers of women at senior levels of
management than any other countries, according to a 32-nation study.
Britain is in 25th place with only 19% of senior managerial jobs occupied by women, a factor attributed
to the lack of government commitment to providing affordable childcare.
Although it exceeds the European average by 2%, the opportunities for British women to excel present
a stark contrast with countries such as the Philippines, China and Russia, where between one third and
half of top jobs are held by women.
The figures have been collected as part of the International Business Report (IBR), a survey involving
7,200 medium to large companies.
The IBR, which is coordinated by Grant Thornton, the international accountants, has data going back
15 years covering six sectors of employment — manufacturing, construction, retail, the service
industries, professional services and other industries. In addition to revealing the poor performance
of Britain, it shows that even countries with strong traditional gender roles, such as Greece, are
pulling ahead of us.
Although women graduates in Britain outperform men academically and in salaries while they are in the
twenties, they fade from the workforce once they start having children.
Apart from the lack of paid-for childcare, Britain has also suffered from the decline of traditional
family models. Working women in Asia often have networks of grandparents and other relatives nearby to
provide 24-hour care.
Countries such as China, Russia, Brazil and India — where the number of female managers has risen by
14% in the past three years — are forecast to account for almost half the world’s economic productivity
In Britain, the Women and Work Commission recently reported that more than 50% of women were doing jobs
below their skill level. Creating conditions to allow them to move into higher paid occupations could be
worth £15 billion to £23 billion a year to the economy. “I don’t think there is an easy answer,” said
Alysoun Stewart, head of Grant Thornton strategic services group. “Political window dressing has made no
difference. Middle management salaries are not enough to pay for good childcare. The only thing that might
make a difference will be the increasing problem of skill shortages, so women have to be attracted back to
Julie Logan, professor of entrepreneurship at the Cass Business School in London, said that opportunities
for working mothers were often curtailed because the need to be at home in the evenings reduced the time
for networking: “The result is that they are not seen as being as committed as men.”
The Sunday Times, March 11, 2007