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Women in Business 2020

Leadership progress for women stalls despite businesses taking more action than ever to increase gender diversity

78% of mid-market* businesses globally are actively working on removing barriers to gender parity at senior levels according to the latest research from Grant Thornton’s International Business Report.

The number of businesses driving initiatives such as ensuring developmental opportunities 34%, creating an inclusive culture (34%) and flexible working (31%), have all seen an increase across all those measured by the report. However, progress for the representation of women in senior leadership positions has stalled. Women currently hold 29% of senior leadership positions – the same as last year.

Francesca Lagerberg, global leader, Grant Thornton International Ltd says: “It is extremely encouraging to see deliberate action taking place as mid-market businesses ramp up activities that encourage progress and accessibility to leadership positions for women. 2018 saw a sharp rise in the representation of women at a senior level after significant changes in the social climate of the western world however, this year’s numbers have levelled off once again highlighting that change at the top is glacial.”

With many mid-market businesses now being intentional in their efforts to boost equality, markets may start to see more women in leadership positions over the coming years as initiatives are embedded and begin to show results.

Francesca says: “If we want to continue to see more women in senior positions, businesses need to be intentional. Policies that ensure diversity of thought at the decision-making table, that address equal opportunity in career development and bias in recruitment and develop inclusive cultures can’t just be a nice to have – they are a must. Once implemented, these policies must be enforced and regularly reassessed to judge their effectiveness. When that is combined with real commitment from senior leadership, only then will real transformational change take place.”

2019’s significant findings:

  • 29% of senior management positions within mid-market companies globally are held by women
  • 87% of businesses have at least one woman in senior management
  • 78% of mid-market businesses are actively working on their gender balance. Common initiatives include:
    • Creating an inclusive culture (34%)
    • Ensuring equal access to developmental opportunities (34%)
    • Enabling flexible working (31%)
    • Reviewing recruitment processes (26%)
    • Mentoring/coaching (26%)
    • Reward for senior management linked to targets (23%)
    • Gender quotas (22%)
    • Unconscious bias training (21%),
  • The number of women at CEO level has increased from 15% in 2019 to 20% in 2020, while those in CFO roles has dropped from 34% in 2019 to 30% in 2020.