The percentage of businesses globally with at least one woman in senior management has risen to 87%, an increase of 12% in the last year and of 21% compared to 2017, according the latest Women in Business research from Grant Thornton International, which provides insight into the views and expectations of more than 8,000 businesses across 35 economies, including G20.
Overall, women now hold 29% of senior leadership positions globally. While this is only up 10% over the past 15 years of research, half this increase (5%) has been achieved in the last 12 months alone.
These figures are incredibly encouraging and a strong indication that gender parity is starting to be taken seriously by businesses. External factors such as increasing organisational transparency, gender pay gap reporting and highly visible public dialogue like the #MeToo movement appear to be making businesses wake up to the change that is needed.
While the number of women in senior leadership is increasing, gender parity at the head of the table is still a significant way off. When it comes to the role of CEO or managing director, only 15% of businesses globally have a woman leading the business.
Despite the strong business case in favour of gender diversity, change at the top has been slow until now. Hopefully, the sharp increase in the representation of women in senior leadership we’re seeing this year is not purely a knee-jerk reaction to the current social climate and we’ll see similar progress in the coming years.
According to the Grant Thornton report, if we want to continue seeing female representation trend upwards in senior positions, more deliberate action needs to be taken and leaders will play a critical role. Policies that address equal opportunity in career development, bias in recruitment and flexible working can’t just be a nice to have. To achieve meaningful progress, they must be adhered to, enforced and regularly revisited to assess their effectiveness and when that is combined with real commitment from senior leadership, you begin creating a truly inclusive culture.
Simonetta La Grutta, Partner at Bernoni Grant Thornton, the Grant Thornton Italian member firm specialized in tax, corporate and advisory services, stated:
«Data arisen from the research show that some results have been reached, thanks to an initial, though still insufficient, cultural change. The abatement of barriers to internal and external networking and the creation of real opportunities for women to express and develop their skills to be applied in organizations are key factors to ensure this positive trend will continue and improve faster».
Sonia Lenzi, Partner of Grant Thornton FDD – company belonging to the Italian member firm Ria Grant Thornton, specialized in audit and advisory services, concluded:
«Companies’ stakeholders, i.e. investors, society, consumers, employees and other players, are becoming more and more aware of the strategic role and added value deriving from women occupying senior leadership roles in the best organizations. As the UN 2030 Agenda and the 17 sustainable development goals, following the 2015 Paris Agreement, are crucial measurement assets and objectives for a sustainable future for companies, people, environment and peace, so it will be crucial to keep investing in equal education, career and remuneration for women as a measurement of the general performance of organizations».