The recent financial crisis has revealed a tendency worth thinking over – women at high level management positions are subject to redundancy more than men. Despite the fact that Russia, not surprisingly, is the third country in the world by the number of female managers in private business – as demonstrated in the report by Grant Thornton prepared on the basis of a survey conducted in 36 countries around the world – we can observe a negative trend. According to Grant Thornton, in Russia 36% of managers are women (only in Thailand this indicator is higher – 45%, and in Georgia – 40%) with an average of 20% globally. 

April McKenzie, Head of International Department of Public Policy and External Relations at Grant Thornton ZAO, says, “We note with disappointment 
that the number of women on managerial positions has returned to the level of 2004. Despite the fact that many companies feel a lot of pressure because of recent state and public inquiries about the dominance of men on the management board; women suffered the greatest damage in terms of quantity during the crisis. A number of companies will be forced to review their policy towards supporting women and to introduce quotas on the number of women in the boardroom. Other companies, especially in developing countries, are already ahead of their competitors in developed countries.” 

If we look at the data by industry we will note that the majority of women managers (22%), according Grant Thornton, work in the financial sphere (e.g. CFO), and their number is growing. The same is true about Russia. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, in 2007 only 10% of CFOs were women, and by 2009, their number increased dramatically to 39%, today the number of women on this position is 49%. By the way, 55% of financial analysts carrying out market research and comprehensive risk analysis are also ladies. It is noteworthy that this sector is usually associated with male dominance, and growing number of female managers in finance is a major victory for women. 

Returning to the global figures by Grant Thornton, the list of ‘female’ management positions includes director of human resources (20%), director of marketing and director of sales (9%). If we turn to Russian statistics (Superjob.ru) and look at the middle management and skilled professionals too, we can see an even more interesting picture: 87% of all managers in HR are women, 92% of managers in tourism are also women, a little less (67%) of women are looking for such positions as marketing manager, event manager or editor. Also, there are more women architects and auditors (65%). Recently, the ladies have been active in Internet related jobs, sometimes even overtaking men, where, until recently men have dominated. 

For example, 57% of applicants for content manager vacancies are women. Approximately the same number of women (60%) are interested in promoting new products and select career of a brand manager. Career of a lawyer is also popular among women. Not long ago the sphere of law was dominated by men, but today more women choose this career (57%). According to last year’s survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, it is no longer a surprise that more women work as chief accountants (91%), HR directors (65%) and financial managers (49%). The ratio of women appointed to senior positions in 2011 to those made redundant has also increased reaching 38% to 27%. 

Researchers claim that in 2010 the gap was not that significant (26% to 30%), and in 2009 these numbers were equal. Executive search in Russia and in Eastern Europe is considered women’s profession; however, it is true only about Russia. In the West the ratio is 50:50. For example, in international IMD Search Group, a group of companies which includes  4Astra Executive Search,  37% executive search consultants are women, the rest (63%) are men (including the author of this article). This is because of Western specifics of executive search sphere where consultants are primarily executives with prior rich management experience in large corporations, and the majority of top managers even in the West are men. 

Despite the overall decrease in the number of female managers in the period of crisis it should be noted that there is positive statistics of growth in the number of female top managers in 2011: over the last year the proportion of female CEOs has grown by 4%, presidents by 3% and chairs of the management board by 5% (PWC, 2011). A study by British researchers demonstrates that women are not only great performers, but also generators of ideas and business activity, suggesting that nearly one third of companies established in the late 20th century in the UK were founded by women. 

So, in spite of some decrease in the number of high level positions held by women in Russian business since the outbreak of the crisis, we are glad to note a major increase in the number of women at decision-making positions and the growing number of women in ‘purely male’ professions. What is the reason for more women in all spheres of activity in all industries? I believe that it can be explained mainly by the changing society's attitudes to jobs for women. A recent survey conducted by VTSIOM shows that 58% of the population believe that Russian women have the same rights and opportunities as men. 

To compare, in 2003 only 50% of Russians agreed with this. Another striking difference is noted in the view of men's rights: 29% of those surveyed noted that men have more rights than women, and in 2003 40% of the adult population of Russia expressed this opinion. There is an obvious positive trend! What is needed to maintain and develop this trend? According to interviewed women managers, the most important thing for their successful career is a good home, stable family relations and an organized life. Well, women are always women, and hurray to that!

Russian Industrialist Magazine, Vyacheslav Konovalov, Business Development Director, 4Astra/IMD International Executive Search


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