BusinessIWD: Grant Thornton Releases 20-year Women in Business Report

IWD: Grant Thornton Releases 20-year Women in Business Report

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March 13, (THEWILL) – Leading global management consulting firm, Grant Thornton, has released a 20-year Women in Business report which identifies three ways businesses can increase the number of women in senior roles.

The report is coming at a time when the percentage of women in senior management roles globally has increased from 19.4 percent to 33.5 percent over two decades but progress remains disappointingly slow with just a 1.1 percentage point increase from last year. Therefore, at the current rate, parity won’t be achieved until 2053.

Coinciding with the International Women’s Day, Grant Thornton’s new report, “Pathways to Parity: 20 Years of Women in Business Insights”, marks two decades of dedicated research aimed at monitoring and measuring the representation of women in senior management roles within mid-market companies worldwide.


The report identifies three clear pathways for businesses to accelerate progress towards gender parity in senior management: assigning responsibility for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) to both a C-suite member and a female senior leader; implementing a standalone DE&I strategy with measurable goals; and offering flexible working arrangements.

Firstly, who leads and has responsibility for DE&I is key for increasing the percentage of senior management roles held by women. For every senior management role that leads on DE&I, the percentage of women in senior management positions increases when a member of the C-suite, of any gender, leads alongside a senior female leader.

When a CEO of any gender combines with a senior female leader, 38 percent of senior roles are held by women. The best combination is when a CIO leads on DE&I alongside a female senior leader, with the percentage of women in senior management rising to 39 percent.

Secondly, to achieve parity of women in senior management roles, businesses must have a DE&I strategy in place. The most successful strategy is one which focuses on DE&I alone, independent of a broader ESG strategy.

Mid-market firms with a DE&I strategy, but no ESG strategy, have the highest percentage of senior management roles held by women (38%) – slightly more than businesses which have both a DE&I strategy and an ESG strategy (36%). If businesses do not have a DE&I strategy or an ESG strategy, the percentage drops to 28%.

Understanding progress and measuring success is a crucial part of a DE&I strategy. Maddie Wollerton Blanks, Director, People consulting, at Grant Thornton UK explains the importance:

“There’s an age-old adage: what gets measured gets done. That rings true when it comes to women in business, as much as it does with any other element of business performance.”

Analysis of the impact different measurements have on the percentage of senior management roles held by women, shows very little variation. If there are clear indicators of DE&I performance being measured, businesses will outperform the global benchmark.

The final pathway to parity is the ability to work flexibly. There has been a dramatic shift back to office-based working among global mid-market firms in the past 12 months. 47% of businesses are now primarily office-based (compared to 36% last year) and 45% are hybrid (compared to 53% last year).

This is potentially being driven by male CEOs – 50% of businesses with a male CEO are predominantly office-based, compared to 40% of female led businesses. Businesses in which workers are primarily office-based are the only ones where the percentage of women in senior management roles drops below the global benchmark.

Grant Thornton therefore urges businesses to heed the call for action and seize the opportunity to drive meaningful change. As the global economy evolves, maintaining focus on gender parity is essential to ensure a prosperous and equitable future for all.

Managing Partner/CEO, Grant Thornton Nigeria, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Ogwo, says “In today’s world, it is essential for women to be an integral part of DE& I (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) leadership teams, as they bring unique perspectives, experiences, and insights that contribute to the creation of a more balanced, empathetic, and effective workplace culture.

“Mid-market companies have the agility to drive significant change,” says Karitha Ericson, global leader of network capability and culture at Grant Thornton International Limited (GTIL). “By adopting the pathways to parity outlined in our report, achieving 50% representation of women in senior management within the next five years is within reach.”

CEO of GTIL, Peter Bodin, says: “Our Women in Business research has been a significant contributor to the global debate on equity in the workplace for 20 years. While we’ve seen some positive change over that time, we also know that sustainable change takes an intentional effort and clear accountability from leadership at every organisation.

” Through the Grant Thornton International Business Report research and the pathways we identify, we aim to give mid-market organisations a roadmap to accelerate progress and build more diverse, resilient and successful businesses.”

For 20 years, Grant Thornton has cast a light on issues surrounding gender diversity in senior management among the world’s mid-market businesses, exposing barriers and identifying actions for change through its Women in Business (WiB) report.

Data for the Women in Business (WiB) report is gathered from the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR), a world’s leading mid-market business survey, that interviews approximately 5,000 senior executives biannually in listed and privately held companies all over the world.

Launched in 1992 in nine European countries, the report now surveys around 10,000 business leaders in 28 countries on an annual basis, providing insights on the economic and commercial issues affecting the growth prospects of companies globally.

The findings in this report are drawn from around 5,000 interviews conducted between October and November 2023 with chief executive officers, managing directors, chairs, and other senior decision-makers from all industry sectors in mid-market businesses in 28 countries.

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