Philippines top for gender diversity at senior level according to Grant Thornton

19 March 2018 5 min. read

The Philippines has been ranked number one for women in business according to a Grant Thornton report, with the country’s female population holding senior positions at a far higher rate than the global average. The report, however, was released just days before the Philippine central bank’s deputy governor took a swipe at the male-dominated boards of the country’s top banks.

Global professional services network Grant Thornton has ranked the Philippines first for the proportion of women holding senior business positions in its latest annual Women in Business survey report, which conducted nearly 5000 interviews with senior executives from mid-market businesses operating in a range of sectors across 35 countries.

The survey found that roughly 46.5 percent of senior management roles in the Philippines were held by women, nearly doubling the global average of ~24%. Policies such as equal pay for comparative roles, cited by 80% of the country’s respondents, non-discriminatory policies for recruitment (76%), paid parental leave (70%) and flexible hours (66%) were given as possible reasons for the Philippines’ strong showing in workplace equality, with the national figure rising from 40% on the previous survey.

Top gender equality policies and practices businesses have in place

“These practices have been introduced by Filipino businesses in order to attract and keep employees, enhance company performance, comply with government legislation, live up to organisational values and meet the expectations of wider society,” a statement from P&A Grant Thornton said.Yet, the local firm’s CEO and chairperson MA. Victoria C. Españo added that there was still work to be done;

“Make diversity and inclusion a core value in your business; Organisational values drive behavior, so it is important that the whole business is signed up to diversity and inclusion… The key for creating real change is that business policies and practices are rooted in a genuine conviction of the benefit of diversity,” Españo said. According to the report, such businesses “create inclusive cultures in which a wide range of voices are listened to.”

Ongoing inequalities

The encouraging local results were also released just days before the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of the Philippines, Chuchi Fonacier, hit out at the disparity in female representation at the top level of the nation’s biggest banks; “Right now, we have a lot of women in big banks, but almost none of them are at the top,” Fonacier said in an interview, with the central bank noting that men hold 82 percent of the board seats at the nation’s biggest lenders – while some feature no women at all.

Fonacier, who was appointed to the deputy position last year and is charged with overseeing the banks in her role, had a simple message for the banking sector executives; “We encourage diversity.” She added, “There’s a different approach when women are involved. Women are more intuitive, pay more attention to details and have more patience… As a woman in an industry that’s full of men, you have to be factual and stick by the rules.”

Numerous recent research studies from some of the world’s biggest consulting firms have demonstrated the business advantages that come with greater gender diversity among senior management roles, with Grant Thornton citing a report this year by fellow consultancy McKinsey and Company which found that those benefits stretched beyond the simply cultural to have a genuine bearing on the bottom line.

The report states; “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21 percent more likely to outperform on profitability and 27 percent more likely to have superior value creation.” According to McKinsey, the reverse also held true, with companies in the bottom quartile for gender and ethnic or cultural diversity being 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability compared to all others.

Femail representation in senior management over past four years

Overall, the latest Grant Thornton survey indicated both positive and negative developments at the global level, with a far greater number of boards featuring at least one woman, from 66% to 75% in the last year, but a slight overall reduction in the number of women at board level on the previous survey – suggesting, according to Francesca Lagerberg, the firm’s global leader for network capabilities, the possibility of corporate ‘box-ticking’ at the expense of meaningful progress.

“Diversity in every sense is good for business,” said Españo, “It encourages different ways of thinking and opens new opportunities for growth. This is particularly relevant in a rapidly changing global business environment, as a wide range of perspectives will help businesses to better analyse and navigate new landscapes.”

Taken together, the Asia Pacific was one of the poorest performers, with the region’s 23% rate in front of only North America at 21%. Yet ASEAN as a bloc recorded the highest average total rate of around 38.5%, boosted by Indonesia and Thailand at above 42% – although the figure for Indonesia contrasts somewhat with an earlier recent survey study by The Boston Consulting Group, which, with a slightly different methodology, indicated a respective 23% and 6% rate of senior management and CEO/board level positions held by women in the country