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Gender parity

Mixed signals: Using data to assess women’s professional progress

International Women's Day is a good time to ask whether women are succeeding in the workplace. A look at the relevant data shows they are - sometimes and in some countries. Where are women winning, and where are they losing?

In many ways, the previous decades have seen women make great strides in the professional realm. However, any female colleague could tell you about a time when she’s been held back, hit a dead-end or felt overlooked. The prevalence of those stories indicates we may not have come as far as we need to.

To square the sense of progress against the impression that obstacles still remain, the Thomson Reuters Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) team analyzed some of the gender-related metrics from our ESG database using the Eikon Screener App. Together, the team’s findings show that while the business world has indeed made progress in hiring, retaining and promoting women, there are several key areas where further attention and work are needed.

Trickle-down progress?

First, a bright spot: In the fiscal year 2011, 10.3 percent of board members at companies for which at least five years of Thomson Reuters ESG coverage available were women. Five years later, in fiscal year 2016 (the most recent year for which complete statistics were available), that figure rose to 16.8 percent. There are also slightly more female executives, up from 10.6 percent to 12.5 percent during the same timeframe.

However, during the same period, the percentage of female managers actually ticked downward (25.6 percent to 25.3 percent), as did the overall number of female employees (34.2 percent to 34.1 percent).

Comparing those statistics reveals two stark truths: Women remain under-represented at all strata in companies, and change (as slow as it may be) is coming from the top down.

Uneven advancement worldwide

When the top 10 countries with the highest gross domestic product (GDP) are examined, countries in the EU fared the best in terms of representing women on the highest rungs of the corporate ladder. France led the way with 39.6 percent female board members, with Italy (32.1 percent), Germany (26.0 percent) and the UK (21.2 percent) coming in close behind.

On the lower end of the spectrum were China (9.3 percent female board members), Brazil (6.4 percent) and Japan (3.9 percent).

While it may be tempting to applaud French companies for their progressiveness, it should be noted that in 2011, France mandated companies fill 40 percent of boardroom positions with women by 2016. That’s one of the highest enforced gender diversity quotas in the world.

Where are women winning?

Women make up the majority of employees in Textiles & Apparel (60.4 percent), Diversified Retail (57.9 percent), Specialty Retailers (55.1 percent), Food and Drug Retailing (54.7 percent) and Insurance (54.1 percent). The Retail sector represents three of the top five industry groups by female employment, but only one of the top five industry groups appears in both female manager percentages and female executive percentage categories. More troubling, from 2011 to 2016, female manager representation has decreased noticeably in the Textile & Apparel, Diversified Retail, and Specialty Retail sectors. That could suggest new managerial roles gained or saved during the latest global economic recovery and expansion disproportionately went to their male colleagues in these traditionally female-dominated industries.

Women make up the fewest employees in Automobiles and Auto Parts (18.5 percent), Construction and Engineering (17.6 percent) and Metals and Mining (16 percent).

Learn more

The full report, Females still underrepresented, but are there some bright spots? is available for complimentary download.

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