Commonwealth gender leadership

16 April 2018

Commonwealth gender leadership

Gender leadership: Commonwealth report highlights slow progress

Slow progress in closing the gender leadership gap across the Commonwealth has been highlighted by a new report – with some countries even recording a decline in the percentage of women in top jobs.

The Gender Leadership Gap Commonwealth Report, commissioned for the Heads of Government Summit 2018, was led by Dr Shaheena Janjuha-Jivraj, Associate Professor at Henley Business School and CEO of Boardwalk Leadership.

It is the second benchmarking report on women in leadership roles in the private, public and political sectors across the Commonwealth countries, and identifies what progress has been made since the inaugural report in 2015.

While the data shows some overall improvement, with increasing numbers of women in leadership roles in two of the three sectors, in-depth analysis shows significant variances.

The key findings from across the Commonwealth are:

Political sector:

  • There has been no improvement in the overall percentage of women in leadership, namely in cabinet and deputy positions, with 17% recorded in both 2015 and 2018
  • 10 of the Commonwealth countries have reached the 30% benchmark of women holding leadership positions, with Canada achieving 52% (up from 31% in 2015)
  • Countries recording a decline include the UK (22%, a drop from 24% in 2015), Kenya (23% compared to 33% in 2015), India (8% compared to 26%) and Fiji (13% compared to 20%)

Public sector:

  • The overall percentage of women in board positions has increased slightly from 23% in 2015 to 25% in 2018
  • 16 of the Commonwealth countries have reached the 30% benchmark
  • Five of these countries have 40-50% of positions held by women; Namibia (44%, up from 34%), Australia (43%, maintained), United Kingdom (43%, up from 27%), South Africa (41%, up from 33%) and Dominica (41%, up from 31%)
  • Countries reporting a decline include New Zealand (35%, down from 37%) 

Private sector:

  • The overall percentage of women in C-suite and board positions has increased by just over 5%, from 14.5% in 2015 to 20% in 2018
  • In the UK the number of leadership positions in the private sector held by women has increased from 14% to 23%
Dr Shaheena Janjuha-Jivraj, Associate Professor at Henley Business School, said:
“There is a lot of noise around what is being done, but results show progress is slow, and in fact has reversed in some cases.
Previously quotas have been promoted as an effective means to achieve progress for women in leadership, however our findings show they have had mixed results.
“To achieve significant and sustainable change and increase the number of women into leadership requires a coordinated effort, strong direction from leaders and a clear focus on achieving goals set.”
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