India ranks third lowest in the proportion of business leadership roles held by women, at 15 per cent; falling below the global average, reveals an annual survey from Grant Thornton, conducted ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8).

Japan which sits at the bottom of the global rankings at 8 per cent and Germany at 14 per cent, join India at the bottom of the rankings.

Globally, 22 per cent of senior roles are held by women, a slight improvement up from 19 per cent in 2004 but, down from 24 per cent last year, highlighting broad stagnation. And almost a third of businesses have no women in senior leadership roles.

“Japan and India may be at very different stages of their development but they share certain cultural features, such as strong hierarchy and patriarchal societies, which prevent women from reaching the upper echelons of the business world," said Pallavi Bakhru, Director, Grant Thornton Advisory Private Ltd.

There have been pockets of improvement, however, with 26 per cent of senior roles in the EU now occupied by women – an all-time high. This has been driven by France (33%), Sweden (28%) and Greece (27%). At the same time, the number in Latin America has fallen to 18 per cent, an all-time low.

While the situation in developed economies has broadly stagnated over the past decade, there has been a marked decrease in emerging markets, potentially driven by rapid urbanisation according to the report released- Women in business: the path to leadership.

“We’ve heard businesses talk the talk on gender equality for decades now, but still too few are walking the walk. Aside from the moral issue of ensuring equal opportunity for all, a more representative blend of women and men in senior roles just makes good business sense. If an economy is only using half its most talented people then it immediately cuts its growth potential,” said Bakhru.

5,404 business leaders were surveyed and interviews with 20 policy makers, academics and senior decision makers from inside and outside Grant Thornton were conducted to look at the barriers and enablers along the path to business leadership.

The survey further reveals that India ranks second from bottom on the number of women in leadership roles like CEO/ Managing Director. Armenia ranks lowest in this parameter. As far as presence of women in Board positions is concerned, India ranks fourth from bottom, while Japan again ranks last in the list.

Bakhru says, “Society must adjust to changes in the way we live and work; for instance, the stigmatisation of men who choose to stay at home for family reasons must end. Governments can support this by facilitating shared parental leave but also building the infrastructure to allow women to thrive in the workforce. We feel mandating a quota for women on the Board is one of such steps in this direction.”