New study sees an increase in overall leadership positions for women in Singapore despite global pandemic.


The number of women in Singapore holding overall senior leadership positions in mid-market businesses has hit 33 per cent despite the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Grant Thornton‘s annual Women in Business report.

Globally, women in senior leadership positions have passed the critical 30 per cent threshold, which research shows is the minimum representation needed to change decision-making processes.

As one of the world’s leading organisations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms, Grant Thornton has been reporting on gender diversity in senior management among the world’s mid-market businesses for more than 15 years.

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David Sandison, Singapore Practice Leader & Head of Tax at Grant Thornton Singapore shared: “Reaching this significant milestone for women in senior leadership roles is important for businesses in Singapore. We are seeing the benefits of gender diversity first-hand, with three new female partners’ appointment over the past year. Businesses must continue to take action to enable women to realise their ambitions.”

While the overall proportion of women leaders rose to 33 per cent in Singapore, with a two per cent increase year-on-year, after a two per cent dip in 2020, there were fewer women across operational C-suite roles in Singapore compared to last year.

The proportion of female CEOs was down to 6 per cent and female CFOs down to 32 per cent. However, the proportion of female CIOs was up significantly at 24 per cent, and COOs were also up at 24 per cent.

It is heartening to note that businesses in Singapore are enhancing initiatives to achieve gender balance, with initiatives such as:

  • Providing mentoring and coaching (54 per cent)
  • Ensuring equal access to developmental work opportunities (50 per cent)
  • Enabling flexible working (47 per cent)
  • Creating an inclusive culture (45 per cent)
  • Reviewing recruitment approaches (42 per cent)

More businesses are also actively improving their gender balance, with only 3 per cent of surveyed firms not taking any initiatives to achieve gender diversity.

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Gender balance in the new normal

Over two-thirds (72 per cent) of Singapore respondents agree that in their organisations, new working practices as a result of COVID-19 will benefit women’s career trajectories long-term.

Moreover, 70 per cent of Singapore respondents agree that these new working practices have enabled women to perform greater leadership roles in their organisations.

Sze Min Yu, Partner of Audit and Assurance at Grant Thornton Singapore says: “It is promising to see that businesses in Singapore are focusing on employee engagement and inclusion, as the way we work has changed significantly due to the pandemic. As the economy starts to recover, businesses must continue to work towards achieving gender balance.”

Francesca Lagerberg, global leader at Grant Thornton says: “Breaking the 30 per cent barrier of women in senior roles globally certainly does represent progress – having grown from 19 per cent when we first started tracking this 17 years ago – but these gains can easily be lost. Now more than ever, businesses need to stay focused on what is enabling women to progress to leadership positions, so that women move forward rather than back as a result of the global pandemic.”

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Gina Sin

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