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Industry leaders believe gender parity is within reach despite little progress: E&Y survey

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Nearly 70 per cent of industry leaders believe that they will achieve gender parity on their board within the next 25 years despite little progress being made within their organisations, according to an Ernst & Young (EY) survey.

NEARLY 70 per cent of industry leaders believe that they will achieve gender parity on their board within the next 25 years despite little progress being made within their organisations, according to an Ernst & Young (EY) survey.

In contrast, the World Economic Forum predicts that it will take 117 years to achieve gender parity across the workforce.

However, only 13 per cent see a sizeable increase to the number of women in leadership roles in the next five years. Banking and capital markets beat the cross-sector average with 27 per cent expecting to see this while in the insurance industry, the figure was only 6 per cent.

Max Loh, Asean and Singapore managing partner at EY, said: "There are proven, direct links between a company's gender diversity and its business performance. Achieving gender diversity is a business imperative. Businesses need to put gender parity on the agenda - and start today."

The survey polled 350 C-suite executives from the top 200 companies in seven industries across 51 countries, including Singapore.

Only 44 per cent of firms polled have metrics in place to track women along their career path. While more than half of respondents (55 per cent) recognise the need to do more to attract, retain and promote women to develop future leaders, only 18 per cent have structured programmes to identify and develop women in their companies.

Of companies with structured programmes in place to advance women's careers, 44 per cent are in Europe, the Middle East and Africa compared with 28 per cent in the Americas and Asia-Pacific.

Mr Loh added: "The talent is there, and more needs to be done to ensure female professionals make it to the top: more structured programmes, more measurement and more reporting. Companies should ask their female employees what support, programmes and policies they would like to see in the workplace."

Forty-three per cent of men pointed to a shortage of female candidates as the top challenge to gender parity, compared to just 7 per cent of women. On the other hand, female respondents identified an unsupportive culture (28 per cent), organisational bias (28 per cent) and the conflicts of raising a family (24 per cent) as key issues.

Both men (59 per cent) and women (40 per cent), however, agree on the importance of creating a supportive corporate culture.