women C-suite
Top companies from UK, US, Canada and Sweden have the most female leaders worldwide. Source: AFP/Angela Weiss

Much is said about championing women in leadership positions, but is it reflected in reality?

For International Women’s Day 2020, Study International surveyed the top 10 companies of the top 10 global markets to find out just how involved female leaders are in today’s economy.

Of the 100 companies surveyed, only six had women leading the organisation as the chief executive officer or executive director. As seen in Singtel (Singapore) and GlaxoSmithKline (UK), companies with female CEOs were more likely to have other women in C-suite positions.

The most popular role for women is in human resources; the data shows that 39 HR leaders out of the 100 companies are female.

Though results did not prove a strict correlation between country GDP and the number of women leaders, the most encouraging markets for women leaders also happened to be some of the world’s largest. 

This includes the US, UK and Canada – all of which have trillion-dollar nominal GDP. They also each have the highest number of women leaders in various posts within their 10 richest companies. 

The glaring exception is Indonesia. Despite its trillion-dollar GDP, the country’s corporate workforce is sorely lacking female representation and equal rights.

With that, let’s take a closer look at the six countries championing women in C-suite leadership across key global markets. 

Women in management roles can positively influence social motivations and achievements. Source: Pexels


Compared to the US, the UK has a deeper history of women in leadership positions – one that traces all the way back to the Queen, and more recently to former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May. 

This has likely helped shape the nation’s views on equal opportunity and employment culture, leading to a greater acceptance of women in leadership positions. 

The CEO of GlaxoSmithKline – ranked fifth in the country based on market capitalisation – is Emma Walmsley. She has two female colleagues as Chief Technology Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer. Besides that, there are also multiple women leaders in AstraZeneca and Diageo.


With the highest GDP in the world and one of the most encouraging climates for working women in the west, the US has more than 10 women in leadership positions within its top 10 companies. 

JP Morgan Chase & Co – second on the national market cap list – has women leading its technology, human resources, and finance departments. Bank of America and Boeing have two women in C-suite positions respectively.


A longtime champion of inclusivity, Canada has 11 women in important C-suite positions across its 10 top companies. 

Most noticeably, the Bank of Nova Scotia’s leaders in information security, human resources, and operations are all women.


Like the UK, Sweden has long held women in high regard for administration. In fact, Sweden claims to be the world’s first feminist government – gender equality is central to its decision-making and resource allocation.

As such, it’s no surprise that one of the world’s most successful fashion company H&M is helmed by CEO Helena Helmersson and CHRO Doris Klein. There are also multiple executives in Vattenfall and ICA Gruppen.

Having women in management roles can positively influence social motivations and achievements, which in turn empowers all employees. Thus, here’s hoping more women step into leadership positions in the year to come – in established and emerging economies alike. 

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