Women From Latvia to Vietnam Among Emerging Leaders, Survey Says

Women in emerging countries are becoming business leaders in greater numbers than in the developed world, and nowhere is that more evident than in China and eastern Europe, according to a study by Grant Thornton LLP.

The survey of 6,627 executives across industries and around the world shows the 10 countries with the most women in senior positions are all emerging economies, led by China, Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. At least 32 percent of chief executive officers, chairmen, senior executives or managers in these countries are women, according to the results.

The world’s fastest-growing nations are making an effort to add women to leadership positions as new jobs are created, according to Erica O’Malley, a partner at Grant Thornton in Chicago. In China, where women hold more than half of all senior management positions -- more than double the portion in the U.S. -- 72 percent of respondents said they favor gender quotas to promote the number of women on directorial boards.

“The progress made in the developing countries is enlightening because they’re obviously in a growth mode and taking the gender difference into consideration,” O’Malley said in a telephone interview on March 11. “They’re having more success than some of the countries that aren’t growing as significantly.”

The survey, conducted from November 2012 through last month and published March 8, found that women in the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China hold 28 percent of the top jobs. That compares with 21 percent in the Group of Seven nations.

Reshaping Attitudes

Last year, growth in the BRIC countries and South Africa was almost five times faster than that of the Group of 10 economies, which expanded 1.24 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

While Latin America boasts female heads of state -- including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina -- the region is lagging behind the developing world in promoting women in business, according to the survey.

Women account for 32 percent of total employees in Latin America, where growth slowed to 2.2 percent last year from 4.3 percent, and hold 23 percent of senior positions, unchanged from 2011. Only 15 percent of survey respondents plan on hiring more women in upper management in the region, the results show.

O’Malley said female leaders, such as Brazil’s Maria das Gracas Silva Foster, chief executive officer of Rio de Janeiro- based Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PETR4), are in a position to help reshape the attitudes that keep women from joining her rank when job growth is slow.

Board Positions

“If a woman leader believes gender diversity creates better results, she has the duty to develop future woman leaders and advocate for change,” O’Malley said. “You’re going to see it having to be a replacement or a change in mindset, or a change in how we evaluate people.”

While 27 percent of Chinese companies offer flexible working options, the number of women in senior roles more than doubled last year as the economy expanded 7.8 percent, the world’s third-fastest, according to the survey. In China, 81 percent of companies with a woman in upper management had a female chief financial officer.

Women from the former Soviet Union are the most commonly found on directorial boards, with the Baltic states leading the world’s regions with 38 percent of board slots filled by women. In Russia, women occupy 37 percent of board positions, the most in the world and double the global weighted average of 19 percent, the data show.

In India, women make up 15 percent of the total, while 44 percent of survey respondents supported gender quotas for the boardroom, and 42 percent said they plan on hiring or promoting more women into senior management over the next year -- more than for any other country after Georgia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Katia Porzecanski in New York at kporzecansk1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Laura Zelenko at lzelenko@bloomberg.net

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