Number of women in senior management falls in Canada, rises in Europe

TORONTO, March 15, 2012 /CNW/ - The proportion of women holding senior management roles in Canada has declined from 28% in 2011 to 25% this year, while in Europe, the number is steadily increasing, according to the latest research from Grant Thornton. On a global basis, 21% of senior management roles are held by women—barely higher than the level in 2004. In Canada and around the world, only one in ten businesses has a female CEO, and 34% of businesses said their company had no women in senior management at all.

The figures from Grant Thornton's most recent International Business Report (IBR) reveal that just over one in five (22%) senior management positions in businesses surveyed in Latin America are held by women, down from 28% in 2009. Similar falls have been recorded in the Asia Pacific economies (25% in 2009 down to 19% in 2012), South East Asia (36% in 2009 down to 32% in 2012) and the BRIC economies (30% in 2009 down to 26% in 2012). In the United States, the number rose slightly over the past two years to 17%. Despite rising unemployment, the proportion of women in senior management in Europe has continued to rise steadily from 17% in 2004 to 20% in 2009 to 24% in 2012, catching up with peers in emerging markets.

Of those in senior management, women are best represented in finance and human resources positions. In terms of finance, 13% of businesses have female Chief Financial Officers, and a further 13% of businesses employ women in other senior finance roles such as Corporate Controller.

One factor influencing the proportion of women in senior management is the number of females who are economically active—in other words, how many women are in the workforce? Female economic activity rates are fairly mixed, but in Canada, the proportion of female adults in the labour force is 63%—the highest of any G7 country—even though only 25% of senior management positions are held by women. There is clearly a gap.

"It's encouraging to see that Canada remains is in the top half of the country rankings, but we're still not seeing significant change over time. Getting more women into senior management positions has been high on the political agenda for quite some time in Europe, where governments have been vocal about addressing the imbalance with positive results. The slow pace of growth in Canada is concerning if Canadian companies—and our economy—are to continue to grow," said Phil Noble, Executive Partner and CEO, Grant Thornton LLP in Canada.

Of course, women have made progress in the wider workforce over recent years. Since 1970, the proportion of women in the mature market workforce has risen from 48% to 64%.1 Why is this important to continue to push the agenda beyond mere participation in the workforce and focus on women in management? Research has shown that stronger stock market growth is more likely to occur where there are higher proportions of women on senior management teams.2 Mixed gender boards are thought to show better attention to audit and risk oversight and control.3 Recent UK research has shown that just one female board member reduced that businesses chance of folding by 20%.4

"Governments and business leaders need to start working now to address this decline," continues Noble. "The last thing we want to see is a race to mediocrity where the proportion of women in senior roles stagnates for a number of years. There needs to be a public discussion now about the policies and practices that will enable and encourage women to continue to progress in the workplace."

Although there is no clear correlation between either flexible working practices or female economic activity and the proportion of women in senior management, greater adoption of flexible work arrangements might allow a greater proportion of women to make senior positions in the future, reversing the current stagnation. The IBR suggests that offering flexible working could help reverse this trend in emerging markets. Nearly two thirds of businesses in the EU (65%), where the proportion of women in senior management roles is increasing, currently offer flexible work arrangements. In Canada, 61% of Canadian businesses offer flexible work arrangements This is well ahead of Latin America (49%), the BRIC economies (36%) and Asia Pacific (32%).

Biggest winners and losers

Of the 40 economies surveyed, businesses in Russia employ the most women in senior management (46%), ahead of Botswana, Thailand and the Philippines (all 39%), whilst Italy ranks highest in Europe (36%).

At the bottom of the table is Japan, where only 5% of senior management positions are filled by women, below Germany (13%), India (14%) and Denmark (15%).

Countries with the biggest increase over the past 12 months include Turkey (25% to 31%), and the United Arab Emirates (8% to 15%), results that suggest that the wave of economic liberalisation in the Middle East as a result of the Arab Spring could have boosted the chances of women in the region reaching the top.

Australia emerges as the country with the highest proportion of female CEOs, with three in ten businesses led by women, just ahead of Thailand (29%), Italy (24%) and Argentina (23%).

About Grant Thornton in Canada

Grant Thornton LLP is a leading Canadian accounting and advisory firm providing audit, tax and advisory services to private and public organizations. Together with the Quebec firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton LLP, Grant Thornton in Canada has approximately 4,000 people in offices across Canada. Grant Thornton LLP is a Canadian member of Grant Thornton International Ltd, whose member firms operate in close to 100 countries worldwide.

Notes to editors

The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) provides insight into the views and expectations of 12,000 businesses per year across 40 economies. This unique survey draws upon 20 years of trend data for most European participants and nine years for many non-European economies. For more information, please visit:

Data collection

The research is carried out primarily by telephone interview lasting approximately 15 minutes with the exception of Japan (postal), Philippines and Armenia (face to face), mainland China and India (mixture of face-to-face and telephone) where cultural differences dictate a tailored approach.

Data collection is managed by Grant Thornton International's core research partner - Experian. Questionnaires are translated into local languages with each participating country having the option to ask a small number of country specific questions in addition to the core questionnaire. Fieldwork is undertaken on a quarterly basis.


IBR is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. The data for this release are drawn from interviews with 6,000 businesses across the globe conducted between November 2011 and February 2012.

The target respondents are chief executive officers, managing directors, chairmen or other senior executives (title dependent on what is most appropriate for the individual country) from 40 economies primarily across five sectors: manufacturing (25 per cent), services (25 per cent), retail (15 per cent) and construction (10 per cent) with the remaining 25 per cent spread across all sectors.

Group/region Economies included in IBR
Asia-Pacific (APAC) Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, China (mainland),
Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan,
Thailand, Vietnam
Association of Southeast Asian
Nations (ASEAN)
Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
BRIC               Brazil, Russia, India, China (mainland)
European Union (EU)         Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece,
Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
G7                 Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom,
United States of America
Latin America                 Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru
Nordic             Denmark, Finland, Sweden
North America Canada, United States of America
Other Armenia, Botswana, Georgia, South Africa, Switzerland,
Turkey, United Arab Emirates

Any and all references to Grant Thornton International are to Grant Thornton International Ltd.

Grant Thornton is one of the world's leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms. These firms help dynamic organisations unlock their potential for growth by providing meaningful, actionable advice through a broad range of services. Proactive teams, led by approachable partners in these firms, use insights, experience and instinct to solve complex issues for privately owned, publicly listed and public sector clients. Over 31,000 Grant Thornton people, across 100 countries, are focused on making a difference to clients, colleagues and the communities in which we live and work.

1 "Still struggling", The Economist,

2 Women Matter: Gender diversity, a corporate performance driver, McKinsey & Company (2007)

3 Women on Boards: Not just the right thing, but the 'bright' thing, Conference Board of Canada (2002)

4 Women in the boardroom help companies succeed, Professor Nick Wilson, Leeds University, as reported in The Times, 19 March 2009



Image with caption: "Number of women in senior management falls in Canada, rises in Europe (CNW Group/Grant Thornton LLP)". Image available at:

SOURCE Grant Thornton LLP

For further information:

Tania Freedman
Senior Manager, Media Relations
Grant Thornton LLP
+1 (416) 607-2745

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