YEREVAN (Arka)—On International Women’s Day, new research from Grant Thornton revealed that Eastern European countries dominate the international rankings for senior female business leaders, making up seven of the top ten, with Russia at number one. However the proportion of women reaching the top tier of the business world has shown little progress over the past decade, leading to renewed calls for quotas.
Grant Thornton’s research reveals that 29% of senior management roles are filled by women in Armenia. This is down from 35% in 2014. However, the index is higher than the last five years’ average and Armenia remains in the top ten, in 8th place.
IBR data shows that 40% of senior business roles in Russia are occupied by women, the highest in the world, and almost double the global average (22%). The next five countries on the list are all nearby neighbors: Georgia (38%), Poland (37%), Latvia (36%), Estonia (35%) and Lithuania (33%).
Francesca Lagerberg, global leader for tax services at Grant Thornton, said: “The domination of Eastern European nations is explained by a complex blend of factors including history, culture and demographics. A thriving culture of female entrepreneurship is a legacy of the communist ideal of equality of opportunity and this extends into the broad range of subjects women study in the region. Consequently we find women well represented in services industries too; and not just those traditionally with high numbers of women like healthcare and hospitality, but emerging industries such as financial services and technology.
“Simple demographics are undeniably at play too. Russia, for example, has 120 women for every 100 men.
“What can the rest of the world learn from Eastern Europe? Clearly there is no magic wand, but some of the recommendations we set out in our report – including changing societal norms around the role of women and eradicating gender bias – are directly drawn from what is working well in the region.”
Globally, 22% of senior roles held by women is slightly up from 2004 (19%) but down from 24% last year. Japan remains at the bottom of the list with just 8% of senior roles held by women, followed by Germany (14%) and India (15%).
Francesca Lagerberg added: “We’ve heard businesses talk the talk on gender equality for decades now, but still too few are walking the walk. Aside from the moral issue of ensuring equal opportunity for all, a more representative blend of women and men in senior roles just makes good business sense. If an economy is only using half its most talented people then it immediately cuts its growth potential.
“This presents real challenges not just for businesses but for governments, society and women too. Society must adjust to changes in the way we live and work; for example, the stigmatisation of men who choose to stay at home for family reasons must end. Governments can support this by facilitating shared parental leave but also building the infrastructure to allow women to thrive in the workforce. This could, for example, include mandating quotas for women on boards.”
Grant Thornton’s research also reveals increasing support of 47% among business leaders for the introduction of quotas on boards of large listed companies up from 37% in 2013.