Press release

Women in Business 2020

Women’s presence at CEO level increased

  • In Italy, women at CEO level are 23% (compared to 15% in 2019), while 28% is the percentage of women in senior management.

  • Italy is actively involved in breaking down barriers to gender equality: the percentage of companies without any women in their senior management is now 18%. In terms of three-year moving average, Italy registered 22% in 2020, compared to 28% in 2019 and 34% in 2018.

Milan, 2 March 2020 – At a global level, 78% of Mid-Market businesses are actively involved in promoting gender equality in senior management positions. This is what arises from the latest Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) - Women in Business 2020, a global survey conducted on approximately 10,000 business leaders in 32 countries.

According to the survey, in 2020, the proportion of women in senior management is 29%, standing at the same level registered in 2019. Despite this slow-down, those businesses having women in their senior leadership as CEOs increased by 5 percentage points, reaching 20% in 2020 at global level, against 15% in the previous year. 

As concerns the situation in Italy, women at CEO level in 2020 reached 23%, above the average global figure, registering an important increase compared to 2019 (15%).

At a more general level, women in leadership positions in Italy are 28%, registering an increase by 4 percentage points compared to 2019. At the same time, the percentage of businesses with no women’s presence in their senior management is 18%. In terms of three-year moving average, the registered trend is positive: in 2020, the percentage is 22%, against 28% in 2019 and 34% in 2018.

Simonetta La Grutta, Partner and Head of VAT at Bernoni Grant Thornton comments: “In Italy, there has been an appreciable increase in women holding leadership roles, reaching 28% in 2020 compared to modest 24% in 2019, ranking 12th in the world’s list together with France and US. Less satisfying is the average over the last three years, moving from 28% to 29%. I have always experienced how Grant Thornton foster their female professionals, giving them important growth opportunities.

Last year, I had the privilege to attend the GT Senior Leadership Program at Harvard Business School, which is a programme tailored for our organization dedicated to Transformational Leaders. On that occasion, women’s presence was equal to about 50% and later many of us, already covering leadership roles, were called to hold higher responsibility positions. For me, this has been the case of my role in the creation of our People Hub function, which, among other initiatives, is planning the implementation of an innovative diversity policy.”

“To keep the number women in senior positions increasing” stated Roberta Cipollini, Director at Ria Grant Thornton – “business policies will have to be more resolute to pursue these objectives. Policies aimed at promoting diversity of thought and of skills in decision-making processes, at gender equality in career opportunities, and at recruiting and developing inclusive cultures must be implemented and constantly reviewed in order to monitor their effectiveness. When this combines with a strong commitment by leadership teams, there is a real cultural change and business transformation.

For two years, Ria Grant Thornton has been the technical partner of the Winning Women Institute for the recording of data on innovative Italian companies and multinational companies operating in Italy, which are evaluated in order to obtain the so-called bollino rosa stating the quality of their concrete initiatives for the promotion of women’s value and talent in all of its forms and in any internal and external processes.”

Over the last year, there has been an increase in women’s presence in senior management positions, also thanks to a higher transparency in organizations, to a better reporting of gender pay gap, and to public discussions originated by the #MeToo movement. According to Grant Thornton report, it is important to keep  incentivizing concrete actions aimed at filling gender gaps.

In fact, this is an important change for all businesses, as it fosters different ways of thinking and offers new growth opportunities: a crucial approach in a fast-growing global economic landscape.


“Women in Business 2020” report – Grant Thornton IBR

2019 figures

  • 29% of senior leadership roles in global mid-market businesses are held by women
  • 87% of businesses have at least one woman in their management
  • 78% of mid-market businesses are acting towards gender equality. Common initiatives include:

    • Creating an inclusive culture (34%)
    • Guaranteeing an equal access to growth opportunities (34%)
    • Implementing smart working (31%)
    • Reviewing recruiting processes (26%)
    • Mentoring / coaching (26%)
    • Senior leader remuneration based on objectives (23%)
    • Gender quotas (22%)
    • Unconscious bias training (21%)

The number of women at CEO level increased from 15% in 2019 to 20% in 2020, while women at CFO level decreased from 34% in 2019 to 30% in 2020.