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Only one in 10 British women aspire to reach the top


Updated: 07 Mar 2016

European countries are lagging behind developing nations when it comes to female ambition in the workplace, with the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands falling furthest behind.

Only 11% of women in the UK believe they need to reach the most senior levels, MD or CEO, in order to feel successful in their careers, compared to 18% of men. This compares to 28% in Malaysia, 22% in Colombia and 18% in the UAE, according to a survey of over 11,500 people globally from recruiting experts, Hays.

In contrast, British women are much more satisfied in reaching mid/ senior-level roles. Almost four in 10 women in the UK (36%) say they would need to reach Director level to feel successful, compared to 33% of men.

The lack of female talent at the top is showing no signs of reversing. Women in senior management tend to be concentrated in support functions rather than leadership roles at the core of the organisation. Recent research has shown that globally only 9% of women are Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Operating Officers (COO). Chief Financial Officer (CFO) roles are slightly higher with 18% of these roles held by women, according to data from Grant Thornton (Grant Thornton: Women in business: the path to leadership, 2015).

Alistair Cox, CEO of Hays plc, said:

“It is a worrying reality that so few women aspire to reach the most senior roles in their organisation. The fact that their career ambitions are being cut short is particularly concerning, given that women are very ambitious when it comes to manager and director roles.”

There needs to be better support from all sides around gender diversity in order to encourage women to reach the top. There is currently a severe imbalance between men and women in their views about pay and recognition for female workers. Just 22% of men compared to 44% of women believe that equally capable male and female colleagues are not paid or rewarded in an equal manner.

Companies also need to be more transparent about what is being done to support the advancement of women in the workplace, including formal gender diversity policies. The majority of respondents said their organisation either didn’t have a diversity policy (44%) or they weren’t sure if one existed (28%).

Cox continued: “Businesses need to make sure they have clear initiatives and development plans in place to retain and promote their top female talent. Employers also need to recognise the benefits of a gender diverse workforce, including a stronger talent pipeline, higher productivity and ultimately a more successful business. Clearly, addressing gender equality needs to be more than just a box-ticking exercise.”

Currently, women currently constitute only 25 of the 267 executive directors in the FTSE 100 (9%), while in the FTSE 250, women are even less well represented, making up just 5% of executives.

Hays is located in Hong Kong at 6604-06,66/F, ICC, 1 Austin Road West, West Kowloon, Hong Kong. Phone +852 2521 8884 or email

Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.

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For further information please contact Kerryn Celine, Senior Marketing Executive - South East Asia at Hays, on +61 2 8226 9844 or

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