Launched today, Grant Thornton International Ltd.’s 2022 Women in Business report shows that the number of women in senior management positions in UK mid-sized businesses is at 32%, the highest level since the report’s records began in 2004, and 1% higher than the global average.
- The number of women in senior management positions in UK businesses is at 32%, the highest level since the report’s records began in 2004
- In 2012 just 3% of UK respondents had female CEOs – today that figure is at 31%, up five percentage points since 2021 and the highest level recorded by the research for the UK
- Grant Thornton International’s 2022 Women in Business report shows progress towards gender balance in senior management positions is underway, slowly
- The number of women in senior management positions globally advanced just a single percentage point year on year, to 32% in 2022, and has only grown by 8 percentage points in a decade
- 73% of global respondents say they are working to create a more inclusive environment to attract and retain female talent (77% UK)
- 73% of global respondents expect that new working practices accelerated by the pandemic will continue to benefit women’s career trajectories long-term (79% UK)
First launched in 1992, the latest report surveys leaders from almost 5,000 businesses across 29 economies. It found that UK businesses are less likely than ever before to have no women in senior roles. Only 2% of UK respondents said they had no women in their senior management team, compared with the global average of 10%.
In 2012, the Women in Business report found that just 3% of UK respondents had female CEOs – today that figure is at 31%, up five percentage points since 2021 and the highest level recorded by the research. In UK businesses, women in senior management are most likely to hold the position of HR Director (49%) followed by Chief Finance Officer (39%).
A clearer commitment to action which improves gender diversity is evident not just in the UK, but across the world. More than 70% of the international business respondents said they are now working to create a more inclusive environment which attracts and retains female talent.
“The global talent shortage is showing no signs of abating. Talented people have high expectations and lots of options, which gives them the upper hand in negotiations in a way not seen before. To attract and retain the best talent (of any gender), employers are having to rethink traditional approaches and build in flexible, hybrid ways of working.
“This change in how we work is ultimately benefiting many women who, in the past, were confined by systems that did not fit with personal responsibilities. The blurring of lines between home and work caused by lockdowns has rapidly accelerated a change of attitudes that was already underway before the pandemic began and has led to a universal acknowledgement that freedom of choice and inclusive working environments not only promote wellbeing but are more productive.
“One the biggest changes accelerated by lockdowns is the visibility of personal responsibilities at work, and the normalisation of this. Everyone is juggling a range of different responsibilities, so employers that continue to support the balance of this by allowing their people to be honest about the demands on their time are going to be the most attractive.
“The setting and reporting of targets and progress, such as pay gap reporting, has also become more established. This creates scrutiny around talent management pipelines and more robust measurement of progress.Tracking, benchmarking, and rewarding progress are vital ways to ensure cultural change and challenge established gender norms.
“In the UK firm we use data to inform targeted action and have made significant efforts to improve our representation of women at a senior level. During 2021 we saw evidence of progress with an increased proportion of women being promoted to partner and joining as external hires. This contributed to a more balanced representation of women at partner level (from 19% in 2020 to 22% in 2021).”
Businesses take action to create more inclusive cultures
With nearly two thirds (57%) of global mid-market leaders expecting a skills shortage to be a major constraint to their businesses in the year ahead, Grant Thornton’s research shows that in response, 95% of global mid-market business leaders are now taking action to foster employee engagement and create an inclusive culture.
The research showed that the top three actions global business respondents are taking to achieve this are:
- Promoting work life balance and flexibility for employees
- Instilling new working practices to better engage all employees including long-term virtual and flexible working
- Creating an environment where we
- re everyone can ‘speak up’ with ideas, issues, and question
As these new ways of working become the norm for many organisations, 73% of respondents globally expect that new working practices accelerated by the pandemic will continue to benefit women’s career trajectories long-term – an increase of four percentage points compared with 2021.
This could be an indication that a step change is on the horizon but in the meantime, the number of women in senior management positions globally continues its glacial progress, advancing just a single percentage point to 32% in 2022.
This figure, that has grown by only eight percentage points over the past ten years, shows that whilst progress is being made, it is at a sluggish rate.
“Everything gained can be easily lost when we’re talking about progress that is this gradual. There is still much more that businesses could be doing to ensure that we not only maintain this growth but accelerate it. Without a consistent and structured approach to gender balance and diversity overall, we could see progress halted or even reversed. Now is not the time for complacency.
“There needs to be continued focus on enabling cultural and societal change around flexible working for all genders, not just in the workplace but at home. Further research is required to investigate and address the long-term effects of the pandemic on women’s careers. And whilst progress on this front is clearly underway, there still needs to be greater accountability at board level for lasting, sustainable change.”
In 2021, the research revealed that the proportion of women in senior management roles had passed the important 30% tipping threshold for the first time.
All global regions have now passed the crucial 30% milestone, including APAC, which was the only region not to hit this figure in 2021. The proportion of businesses with at least one woman in senior management remains static at 90%.