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Women executives a rarity at Korea’s top 500 corporations

The number of women executives at Korea’s top 500 companies has increased slightly, but it is still rare for women to attain corporate leadership positions, the latest figures showed.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family surveyed the top 500 companies based on sales turnover and announced the results Thursday.


As of 2017, the top 500 corporations employed a total of 454 women executives, who comprised 3 percent of all executives at those corporations. That figure was up 0.3 percentage points from 2016, having increased slightly every year since 2014, when the percentage of women executives recorded 2.3 percent.

Among the 500 companies, 328 had no women executives.

Meanwhile, 172 companies had at least one woman in an executive role. This figure recorded 152 in 2014, 154 in 2015 and 164 in 2016. Forty-five percent of the companies operating in the financial and insurance sectors had at least one woman executive, while the figure stood at 35.1 percent for the wholesale and retail sector, 32.1 percent for the manufacturing industry and 21.6 percent for the construction industry.

The presence of women executives in the financial and insurance sectors increased substantially compared with the manufacturing and construction industry, which recorded only slight increases since 2016. In the wholesale and retail sectors, the percentage has dropped since 2016.

The Korean Women’s Development Institute, which conducted the survey in cooperation with the government, said the glass ceiling remains firmly in place in Korea. The average percentage of women executives in all Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development member countries is 21.8 percent.

To promote gender diversity in business, the Gender Equality Ministry said it has been urging companies to voluntarily increase the percentage of women executives. The government will also provide a skills-development program for women at different stages of their careers, called the Women Leader Academy.

“The level of women representativeness in Korea is little short of reprehensible considering the size of the country’s economy,” Gender Equality and Family Minister Jin Sun-mee said.

“Based on the survey’s results, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family will make constant and conscious efforts to expand the number of women executives in cooperation with private organizations.”

By Park Ju-young (