Where are Asia's working women?
Report says organisations need to develop women from within with the same focus they use to recruit women at the top
Latin America is projected to have the world's highest proportion of professional working women by 2025, overtaking Europe and North America, consulting firm Mercer said last week.
Asia, however, is expected to remain the region with the lowest proportion of such women, according to Mercer.
Billed as the largest and most comprehensive research of its kind, the report showed there are still roadblocks preventing women gaining full equality in the workplace, despite advances over the past several decades.
The projections are based on a survey of 583 organisations in 42 countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and the Americas. The organisations employ 3.2 million people.
The analysts looked at what the organisations were doing to support women in the workplace and how this would affect the proportion of female staff at a professional level and above.
"The traditional methods of advancing women aren't moving the needle, and under-representation of women around the world has become an economic and social travesty," said Pat Milligan, Mercer's global leader of When Women Thrive.
When Women Thrive was established in 2014 to help organisations drive growth through the active and productive participation of their female workforce.
But the report showed progress has stalled with no improvements in the pay issue since 2014.
"Less than 30 per cent of organisations routinely review performance ratings by gender to check for disparities that translate into difference in opportunities for men and women," the report said.
In Latin America, women are more likely than men to be promoted from every level, and twice as likely to be promoted from the senior manager level, the study said.
Women there are projected to make up 44 per cent of executives in 2025, a rise from 17 per cent today, given current hiring, promotion and retention rates, Mercer said.
At the professional level and above, Latin America is the only region expected to nearly reach equal gender representation in the workforce, rising from 36 per cent in 2015 to 49 per cent by 2025, followed by Australia and New Zealand moving from 35 per cent to 40 per cent.
The United States and Canada are set to change by just one per cent from 39 per cent to 40 per cent, with Europe remaining unchanged at 37 per cent in 2015 and 2025.
Asia is expected to rank last at 28 per cent, up from just 25 per cent in 2015.
Globally, women are expected to comprise 40 per cent of the workforce at the professional level and above by 2025.
Although organisations in all the regions surveyed were committed to improving gender equality, the current means of hiring, promoting and retention of women are not enough to close the gap between men and women in the next decade.
"In 10 years, organisations won't even be close to gender equality in most regions of the world," Milligan said.
"If CEOs want to drive their growth tomorrow through diversity, they need to take action today," she added.
Hiring rates in Europe for women at the top of organisations are almost double those for men, but women of the highest rank are also more likely than men to leave.
"Quotas and targets in the UK and Europe have had a big impact in boosting female representation in senior roles. But in this region in particular, there is a disturbing revolving door," said Julia Howes, principal at Mercer.
"While organisations are focused on recruiting women at the top, they are not developing them from within with the same focus... and that could threaten the progress they've made, unless they act now," Howes added.
"Simply bringing them in at the executive level without looking at the talent pipeline is not a sustainable strategy," Milligan said.
- Thomson Reuters Foundation (with inputs from Patricia Reaney)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - JULY 1: Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani's son Akash Ambani and daughter Isha Ambani attend the launch of Digital India Week by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at IGI Stadium on July 1, 2015 in New Delhi, India. The Digital India Week which is part of the $18 billion campaign to provide fast internet connections for all and is aimed at popularising Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign promise to connect 250,000 villages in India by 2019. (Photo by Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)