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Women have been making significant progress in the business industry and the global outlook for these developments has never looked brighter. However, advancements in promoting gender parity are slowed down by a myriad of challenges. And as our views and perceptions of what constitutes a progressive society change, we must always remain inclined towards finding new ways to adapt to these changes.
In celebration of Women’s Month, let’s look at how progressive beliefs of justice and inclusivity have impacted women in senior management roles in businesses worldwide. Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) has been casting a light on the issue of gender diversity in senior management at mid-market businesses for 19 years, exposing barriers and identifying facilitators of change.
The report shows that while progress on the overall number of women in senior leadership continues, progress is concerningly slow.
On a global level, 32.4% of senior management positions in mid-market businesses are now held by women, an increase of just half a percentage point (pp) since 2022 and only 13pp since our research was first undertaken in 2004. At this rate just 34% of senior leadership positions will be held by women in 2025.
The WIB research identifies a few factors which could support acceleration towards this goal:
To more effectively address the global gender gap, Grant Thornton is making stronger global calls for mid-market businesses to push for gender parity and understands that intentional action from businesses is needed to accelerate progress.
The Grant Thornton report identifies factors which will support this acceleration. Firstly, women now hold a great number of senior management positions. This trend is likely to lead to new diversity strategies focused on increasing diversity at the senior management level and pushing more businesses towards gender parity.
Secondly, external pressures around Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies demand the creation of new strategies, including a determined push towards more women in senior leadership. The establishment of global ESG standards and regulations is putting pressure on firms to form diverse leadership teams.
The most significant boost toward achieving gender parity could come from a continued commitment by businesses to provide increased flexible working. The IBR research also found that businesses which offer flexible, hybrid and home-based models have the highest levels of women in senior leadership roles. In businesses that have adopted a hybrid way of working, 34% of senior leaders are women, while in businesses that are fully flexible where staff choose how they work, it is 36%. Meanwhile, only 29% of senior management roles is held by females in businesses with predominantly office-based models.