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Grant Thornton Singapore: Women In Business

A slight decline in overall leadership progress for women in Singapore, but increase in C-suite roles held by women is observed

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

78% of mid-market businesses globally are actively working on removing barriers to gender parity at senior levels, according to the latest research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report

In Singapore, businesses are boosting many initiatives to achieve gender diversity, with the number of initiatives such as flexible working (28%), creating an inclusive culture (31%), providing mentoring and coaching (27%) and ensuring developmental opportunities (30%) seeing an increase. 

More businesses in Singapore are actively improving their gender balance, with a 5% drop in the number of firms not taking any initiatives to achieve gender diversity in 2020 compared to the previous year. However, despite the increase of these business initiatives, progress for the representation of women in overall senior leadership positions has declined slightly. Women currently hold 31% of senior leadership positions in Singapore – which is a 2% decrease year-on-year. 

Sze Min Yu, director of audit and assurance at Grant Thornton Singapore says: “We see very positive industry- wide developments in terms of mid-market businesses increasing their efforts not only in promoting leadership positions for women, but also providing the tools and the necessary support to make that happen. We are continuing to see a shift in the professional services industry towards achieving greater gender balance, and while it is a big positive, there is still more for us to do in the region to achieve gender diversity.” 

Francesca Lagerberg, global leader at Grant Thornton International Ltd says: “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.” 

With many mid-market businesses now focusing more in their efforts to boost equality, markets should start to see more women in leadership positions over the coming years as initiatives take hold and begin to show results. 

From a regional perspective, ASEAN ranks number three in the top five regions in terms of the proportion of women in senior management. The region has seen impressive gains, with the percentage of women in senior management going up from 28% to 35%. In Singapore, the number of women in C-suite positions has also grown in 2020. The research has seen 2% more female CEOs, 4% more COOs and 9% more CFOs in comparison to 2019. 

Additionally, there has been a positive trend amongst businesses with the number of organisations having no women in senior leadership decreasing. In 2020, only 10% of businesses in Singapore had no women in senior management, as compared to 36% in 2017, 22% in 2018 and 13% in 2019. 

Jeff Vibert, Singapore practice leader & head of assurance at Grant Thornton Singapore says: “It is very encouraging to see an uptick in the number of women occupying C-suite roles as well as a broad variety of C-suite roles. This shows that businesses are becoming more serious in their attempts to be more inclusive and diverse, which ultimately benefits the entire business community.“

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