By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
The Philippines ranks first among 32 countries surveyed in a recent global report on women in senior management positions, with 43 percent of Filipina executives in a senior leadership role.
The latest research from Grant Thornton International’s 2020 Women in Business report showed a 6 percent increase in the percentage of Filipino women in senior management teams. For 2020, the three-year moving average was at 42 percent.
According to local data from the Women in Business report, 38 percent of companies surveyed have Filipinas holding chief finance officer (CFO) position, 36 percent serve as human resource director and 23 percent chief operating officer. In 2019, the top three positions were HR Director at 52 percent, CFO at 45 percent, and COO at 37 percent.
“We are seeing that the most significant roles in business operations — strategy, finance, and people — are being held by women. The percentages have decreased this year, and it is interesting to note that women are holding these same three roles. We hope to see more women step up into the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Managing Director role in the future,” said Marivic Españo, chairperson and CEO of P&A Grant Thornton, the Philippine member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd.
The report also showed that businesses are taking more action than ever to increase gender diversity. Ninety-four percent of Filipino businesses are actively working on removing barriers to gender parity at senior levels.
Among the specific actions companies are taking to improve or preserve gender balance are ensuring equal access to developmental work opportunities (at 36 percent), and enabling flexible working, reviewing recruitment approaches, and providing mentoring and coaching (all three of which are at 33 percent).
In its 2019 blueprint for action, Grant Thornton International cited the importance of knowing your organization’s diversity data. “Benchmark your organization’s data where you need to make targeted changes,” said Españo.
When asked which aspects of diversity their businesses measure, survey respondents cited the percentage of female employees by management level and the average salary for key management levels by gender (both at 30 percent), followed by the average time in management levels by gender (at 26 percent).
More importantly, creating an inclusive culture, most especially for women, needs to be led from the top.
To promote inclusion, survey respondents have said that their most senior leader asked female talent what it’s like to work at the company and how it can improve (at 40 percent), as well as personally encouraged colleagues to speak up with ideas and issues and encouraged others in senior management to be role models or champions for women (both at 39 percent).
The number of businesses driving initiatives such as ensuring developmental opportunities (34 percent), creating an inclusive culture (34 percent), and flexible working (31 percent), have all seen an increase across all those measured by the report. However, progress for the representation of women in senior leadership positions has stalled.
Globally, women currently hold 29 percent of senior leadership positions — the same as last year.
Españo said: “It is extremely encouraging to see deliberate action taking place as mid-market businesses ramp up activities that encourage progress and accessibility to leadership positions for women. 2018 saw a sharp rise in the representation of women at a senior level after significant changes in the social climate of the western world. However, this year’s numbers have leveled off once again, highlighting that change at the top is glacial.”
With many mid-market businesses now being intentional in their efforts to boost equality, markets may start to see more women in leadership positions over the coming years as initiatives are embedded and begin to show results.
“If we want to continue to see more women in senior positions, businesses need to be intentional. Policies that ensure diversity of thought at the decision-making table, that address equal opportunity in career development and bias in recruitment and develop inclusive cultures can’t just be a nice to have — they are a must. Once implemented, these policies must be enforced and regularly reassessed to judge their effectiveness. When that is combined with real commitment from senior leadership, only then will real transformational change take place,” Españo concluded.