The corporate world is not doing enough to achieve gender equality, says WEF survey

Leading companies are failing to capitalize on the talents of women in the workforce, according to the World Economic Forum’s Corporate Gender Gap Report 2010.

The study also found that gender equality policies are widely missing from the world’s largest employers in 20 countries.

The WEF called the findings “an alarm bell” that the corporate world is not doing enough to achieve gender equality.

Certain companies in Scandinavia, the US and the UK are leaders in integrating women the idea that most corporations have become women friendly is still a myth, according to the survey.

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the Forum, said: “Women account for one-half of the potential talent base throughout the world and therefore, over time, a nation’s competitiveness depends significantly on whether and how it educates and utilises its female talent.”

The report is based on a survey of 600 heads of human resources at the world’s largest employers. The survey assessed companies on representation of women within their establishments and the use of gender-equality practices.

The United States (52%), Spain (48%), Canada (46%) and Finland (44%) have the highest percentage of women employees at all levels among the responding companies.

India is the country with the lowest percentage of women employees (23%), followed by Japan (24%), Turkey (26%) and Austria (29%).

The findings confirmed that financial services and insurance (60%), professional services (56%) and media and entertainment (42%) industries employ the greatest percentage of women.

The sectors that display the lowest percentage of women in the 20 economies are automotive (18%), mining (18%) and agriculture (21%).

Females remain scarce in senior management or board positions in most countries and industries. A major exception to this trend is Norway, where the percentage of women among boards of directors was above 40%. Government regulation in Norway mandates a minimum of 40% of each gender on the boards of public companies.

The average for women holding the CEO-level position was a little less than 5% among the 600 companies surveyed. Finland (13%), Norway (12%), Turkey (12%), Italy (11%) and Brazil (11%) have the highest percentage of women CEOs in this sample.

More than 30% of respondents in France, Italy, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom believed the downturn would be more harmful for women’s jobs in their country.