South Asia is facing a wake up call as it trails the world in its efforts to combat gender gap, an expert told CNBC. The World Economic Forum predicts it could now take 195 years to reach gender equality in the region- 59 years more than the global average. Businesses have a major responsibility to bridge that gap, told CNBC senior manager Michael Page Australia, Sharmini Wainwright. It is perhaps a good wake up moment here, said Wainwright Thursday. In particular, India has a long way to go in this regard, she said, noting that the pandemic and other cultural and demographic issues made it an incredibly challenging year for the country. Currently, just 13% of senior managers in India are women. There is a long way to go, said Wainwright; big Indian companies to really push for change. The findings come as part of a wider WEF study into the impact of the pandemic on the gender gap.
It is estimated that it will take 135.6 years to reach gender equality- a generation longer than previously thought. North America led the way in gender equity, with the gap estimated to close in 53 years, followed by Western Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean according to the study. Other parts of Asia-Pacific showed, however, signs of progress.
Thailand saw more than half of the high executive roles in 2020 filled by women. These senior women executives tended to be a combination of multinational and international talent as well as local talent, particularly within multinational companies in the manufacturing and supply chain industries. What you have is an economy and a market that is very aggressively pursuing talent and moving very quickly, said Wainwright.
She added that it was also the result of concerted efforts in recent decades by certain industries, such as manufacturing, to attract and nurture a pipeline of women leaders. Now, 20 years later, you 've seen the benefit of that, of individuals who have really taken the opportunity to have outstanding careers within this sector and really rose into leadership roles within that, she said. More women needed in the top chair.
Yet today, too few women occupy the top leadership position, namely the role of the chief executive.
According to the report, the three top titles held by senior women executives were chief finance officer, marketing director and legal director. Wainwright described this as the next big breakthrough that needs to happen, and called on men to be better allies. How can I break through to number one seats in my world? This is still yet to come, said the woman. This conversation is as much about males as it is about women. They are usually the ones in positions of highest influence to make a change, to make a decision.