"As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."
—Virginia Woolf

According to this year’s report by Grant Thornton, China still remains above the world average of 21% in employing female executives at 25% (China Daily). Interestingly, last year, China’s percentage for employing women at the executive level was 34%. The percentages are higher than Europe at 24% and North America at 18%. The report represents statistics for women in senior level positions across the world, and for some, the data may convey surprising results.
That the data conveys the reality that women are still underrepresented on boards and generally in senior level positions is not surprising. However, what may be surprising to many, is the data suggests that China appears to be leading the way for female executives, above many other countries. Moreover, many would assume that due to China’s political status that percentages would be much lower. However, research in China has shown that many people feel that equality within the workplace, promotion and executive search is more equal because of the political status of China, and not despite it.
However, at the CEO level, female executives from China appear poorly represented (Fortune 500). In fact, women in general appear underrepresented at this level. In 2012’s Fortune 500 list, only 18 CEO’s were female, none of which were from China. Arguably, this can be attributed to a number of factors, such as women taking a step back from their careers in order to raise a family, women not necessarily pursuing career progression as vigorously as their male counterparts, or more worrisome, women not being offered the same opportunities because of their gender. Yet, of course, none of these factors are unique to China. Additionally, reports and data have demonstrated that most executive positions filled by women in China are in Human Resources, of which women hold 41% of the senior level positions, and also in Finance. Conversely, "only nine percent of the chief executive officers they employed were women" (China Daily). These trends in data suggest a pattern whereby women move quickly into executive positions, but then reach a barrier when it comes to top-most senior level positions.
Still, in a world where women have become the largest economy on the planet, these statistics are both shocking and disappointing. If women are the leading economic force, through consumerism, disposable income, and labor force, why are their voices not valued on boards, and why are opportunities not presented to them in the same way as their male competitors are having presented to them? Overall, China may lead the way in executive opportunities for women, but the world as a whole still has a long way to go before boards and top level positions are as equal and diversified as they need to be in order to move business forward, to innovate, and to regenerate business for the next era of corporate industry.

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This article was written by Helen Langley of the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).
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