news release

Businesses taking more action to increase gender diversity

Seventy-eight percent 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%), has increased across all those measured by the report.

However, progress for the representation of women in senior leadership positions globally has stalled. Women currently hold 29% of senior leadership positions, the same as last year.

In the UK, 29% of senior leadership positions are held by women – a 3% increase compared to 2018 (26%).  The research shows progress since records were first collected in 2004, when only 18% of senior leadership positions were held by women (compared with 19% globally).  78% of UK businesses say they are taking action to improve gender balance in senior positions, higher than the EU average of 72% and in line with the global average (78%).

The UK currently has 17% female representation at CEO level, compared to a global average of 20%.  The most common senior leadership positions for women both in the UK and worldwide are HR Director and Chief Finance Officer.

Sarah Talbott, Head of Financial Services Strategic Accounts and Gender Diversity Lead, Grant Thornton UK LLP, said:

“It is extremely encouraging to see deliberate action taking place as businesses worldwide ramp up activities that encourage progress and accessibility to leadership positions for all genders. We have seen improvement, both in the UK and globally, in the number of women in senior management since 2004. It is evident that the commitment to this agenda is there and efforts are being made to boost equality and create more inclusive working environments for everyone. These changes do take time to embed and it is likely that markets will start to see a better gender balance in leadership positions over time.

“However, there is no time to be complacent. Policies that ensure diversity of thought at the decision-making table, that address equal opportunity in career development and build inclusive cultures to encourage change, can’t just be a nice to have – they must be of paramount importance to businesses going forward. Once implemented, these policies should be regularly assessed to judge their effectiveness. While inclusive cultures and policies are critical, only when this is combined with true commitment from senior leadership, will real transformational change take place.”

2019’s significant findings:

 

Global

UK

Senior management positions within mid-market companies held by women

29%

29%

Businesses that have at least one female in senior management

87%

91%

Mid-market businesses actively working on their gender balance.

78%

78%

Common initiatives to promote gender balance include:

 

Global

UK

Creating an inclusive culture

34%

28%

Ensuring equal access to developmental opportunities

34%

29%

Enabling flexible working

31%

35%

Reviewing recruitment processes

26%

24%

Mentoring / coaching

26%

27%

Reward for senior management linked to targets

23%

19%

Gender quotas

22%

17%

Unconscious bias training

21%

27%

Women in business
Women in business: Putting the Blueprint into action Find out how we're working towards everyday inclusion