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Pathways to parity: increasing the number of women in senior roles

THE PHILIPPINES has the highest percentage globally in terms of senior management roles.

Over the past year, the Philippines has maintained a remarkable 43% representation of women in senior management roles.  While this percentage has seen a slight decline of 6% in the last year, it has consistently remained within the range of 37% to 50% over the last two decades.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, Grant Thornton unveils “Pathways to Parity: 20 Years of Women in Business Insights,” a culmination of dedicated research spanning two decades aimed at tracking and evaluating the presence of women in senior management roles within mid-market companies in the Philippines.

The report identifies three clear pathways that businesses can leverage to accelerate progress towards gender parity in senior management: assigning responsibility for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) to both a C-suite member and a female senior leader, establishing an independent DE&I strategy with measurable goals, and implementing flexible working models.

To begin with, determining who leads and is accountable for DE&I is essential for increasing the proportion of women in senior management positions. When a senior female leader is present along with a C-suite member of any gender, the proportion of women in senior management positions increases for each DE&I-focused senior management role. Given that CEOs hold the greatest responsibility for DE&I initiatives (40.2%), and this position is predominantly held by males (73.5%), it becomes imperative to drive DE&I by working jointly with the highest senior management roles by women.

Currently, the highest senior management roles held by women are Chief Financial Officer with 39%, Human Resource Director with 38%, and Sales Director with 26%. When a CEO of any gender works with a senior female leader, they only hold 26.5% of the said roles. The best combination is when a Chief Information Officer leads DE&I alongside a female senior leader, as the percentage of women in CIO accounts for 64% compared to the percentage of men at 36%.   

Second, to achieve parity for women in senior management roles, businesses must have a DE&I strategy in place. The most effective strategy in the Philippines combines DE&I and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives (41.2%), followed by an ESG strategy with specific actions focused on diversity and inclusion (27.5%). These strategies have proven highly effective for businesses, driving progress toward gender parity.

Lastly, flexible working arrangements play a pivotal role in advancing the pathway to parity. With hybrid models blending onsite and remote work demonstrating higher productivity (42.2%), businesses are encouraged to maintain this approach. Notably, businesses primarily relying on office-based work observe a decline in the percentage of women in senior management roles. 

Thus, having women representatives in making decisions for the improvement of DE&I is substantial, specifically regarding the effectiveness of the hybrid work setup, as they bring insights into the advancement of women in business. For instance, when employees take maternity leave, having a hybrid work model becomes essential for their retention and career advancement, thereby allowing more opportunities for women to attain senior-level positions.

P&A Grant Thornton urged businesses to respond to the call to action and capitalize on the chance to effect significant transformation. In order to secure a prosperous and equitable future for all, it is critical to maintain an emphasis on gender parity as the global economy evolves.

“It’s imperative that we harness the full potential of our collective human capital by ensuring gender parity in every sector. Ignoring half the population’s potential is not just a moral or social oversight; it’s an economic inefficiency we can no longer afford,” said Rhia Girmendonk, director of people and culture.

Romualdo V. Murcia III, chairman and managing partner, added, “The Women in Business Research, for two decades, has been a significant contributor to the country on equity in the workplace and gender parity. We place high value on women as shown by the highest percentages of senior roles in P&A Grant Thornton being occupied by female leaders.  Additionally, our objective is to continue to advance and strive towards achieving the advancement of DE&I and ESG initiatives in the Philippines.  In doing so, we recognize that sustainable change necessitates deliberate action and transparent responsibility from the leadership of each organization.” 

The pathway towards gender parity in senior management positions is ongoing, with businesses poised to take charge towards a more inclusive and equitable future.


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