When thinking of improving gender diversity in leadership roles, quotas usually come to mind. But do they work?

According to the 2018 KPMG Global Female Leaders Outlook, only 4% of the 699 global female leaders surveyed from 42 countries and territories (including Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong) ranked female leadership quotas as a crucial factor for their personal success.

Instead, what they found helped them was an active personal network (26%), strong communication skills (24%), and through know-how of new technologies (15%). More than four in five (83%) global female leaders also found women's enablement programmes a good method to bring women into the business world.

Key learning point: When looking to advance gender diversity in leadership roles, do not focus solely on quotas. Invest in women's enablement programmes that help them build their network, sharpen their communication skills, and increase their knowledge of new technologies.

KPMG's report noted: "Global female leaders know hard it is to fight for their involvement and advancement and want to make it easier for the next generation. Most of the global female leaders do not expect change in these areas to be voluntary, and believe that pressure is needed to reach such a goal."

Interestingly, when asked about the gender of their successor, 59% of respondents believed that their successor will be female. When narrowing it down to heads of department and functional heads, 62% expected their successor to be female. However, isolating responses from C-level executives and vice presidents in large companies, the figure dropped to 39%.

KPMG Global Female Leaders Survey report (fig 20)


Worryingly, with regards to their next career step, only 28% expected their next role to be within their current company. Slightly more than a third (35%) expected their next role to be outside their current company, and 37% did not know where it will be.

An interesting correlation the report pointed out was between the response and the lenght of time that the participant has been with her current company.

Of those who have worked at the company for less than five years, 18% expected to make their next career step within the company. Whereas, among those who have been with a company for more than 10 years, only 27% expected to advance in their career outside the company - intentionally leaving the company to move up the rung.

Learning point: While focusing your efforts on women who have been in the company for a long time, do not forget those who have recently joined or you may lose a capable female leader.

Among other findings from KPMG's 2018 Global Female Leaders Outlook were:
  • 77% of global female leaders are confident about the growth expectations of their company.
  • 93% state that over the next 3 years, innovation processes and execution will need to be improved in order to achieve organisational growth.
  • 45% plan to focus on organic growth.
  • 39% expect headcount to be flat or decrease over the next three years.
  • 48% feel comfortable with AI, blockchain, 3D printing and mixed reality.
  • 53% believe AI will eliminate more jobs than it will create.
  • 77% expect the usage of predictive data models/analytics to increase.
  • 58% trusted insights provided by data when making critical decisions.
  • 66% see no risk of losing existing customers while focusing on new ones.
  • 53% intend to collaborate with innovative startups (e.g. FinTechs, InsurTechs, HealthTechs).
KPMG also put together a comparison chart between the responses received from the Global Female Leader Outlook and the Global CEO Outlook where 84% of the almost 1,300 CEOs who took part were male.

KPMG Global Female Leaders Survey report (chart 1) KPMG Global Female Leaders Survey report (chart 2)

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Infographics / KPMG