For twenty years we have been measuring and monitoring gender diversity in senior management roles across mid-market businesses.

There’s been welcome progress in this time – a 15.5pp increase in UK senior positions held by women. However, our 2024 report shows that progress is still too slow. We estimate at the current rate of progress, that parity for women in senior management won’t be reached until 2053 at the earliest.

Therefore, this report focuses on the pathways and tangible actions that businesses can deploy today, to have a measurable and positive impact on the number of women in senior leadership positions tomorrow. These are the pathways to parity.

Download the report to learn about our three pathways to parity [ 15832 kb ]

Key statistics

  • Key statistics

    34% of senior management positions are now held by women globally, an increase of just 1.1 percentage points (pp) since 2023. 

  • Key statistics

    Just 22% of UK mid-market businesses have a female chief executive officer (CEO) or managing director (MD), down from 30% in 2023. 

  • Key statistics

    40% of UK mid-market businesses have a female CFO, up from 9% in 2012

Progress on parity is still too slow

When we first began our research, just 19% of senior management roles were held by women in the mid-market globally. Today, that figure stands at 34%.

In the UK, progress has remained stubbornly suppressed over the past four years. This highlights the need to focus on the pipeline of female senior leaders, and the steps businesses need to take to ensure that progress to this point is not lost.


Working styles also have an impact on women in senior roles. Our research shows that 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. If businesses push too hard for a return to the office, then they may unwittingly undo some of the progress made on removing the barriers to enable women to thrive in senior management positions which resulted in part from the adoption of flexible working practices.

In addition, our data shows a dramatic decrease in the percentage of women CEOs, suggesting a shift away from women holding the most high-profile positions within an organisation. This sounds a warning bell to us all that it’s not enough just to get women into senior management roles – determined action is also needed to retain and enable success.

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"When leaders put ED&I at the heart of their business strategy, and take time to understand and address the invisible barriers to progression - that is when you start to see meaningful culture change.”

Jenn Barnett, Head of ED&I

Three pathways to parity

While our research allows us to measure progress, it also enables us to understand what needs to change to accelerate it – to identify the business configurations that can drive change and provide actionable steps businesses can take. In this year’s report, we have set out three clear pathways to parity:


“Gender pay gap reporting shows us that while there may be some women in senior management positions, there are not enough at that level or in mid management roles. This lack of a pipeline will likely mean that if a CEO leaves a position, a woman won’t be coming up behind her to take that role. This makes the situation of female management fragile.”

Maddie Wollerton Blanks, Director, People consulting, Grant Thornton UK

Mid-market companies are key drivers of the global economy, and it is their agility and their ability to make significant changes in a short period of time that means they are uniquely positioned to help achieve parity more quickly. The pathways are there – it’s now up to businesses to follow them.

"Our Women in Business research has been a significant contributor to the global debate on equity in the workplace for 20 years. It has highlighted the lack of gender balance in senior positions and helped identify clear pathways that businesses can follow to make meaningful progress.
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 IBR 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.”

Peter Bodin, CEO at Grant Thornton International


Download the report to explore our three pathways to parity in full

The global picture

Women in business across the globe

This year sees a 1.1pp increase in the percentage of senior management roles held by women, up from 32.4% in 2023 to 33.5%. When we began tracking the percentage 20 years ago, just 19.4% of senior positions were held by women. Since the pandemic, progress has accelerated but it still remains slow. Without a greater focus on the issue, women’s parity in senior management won’t be reached until 2053 at the current rate.


of senior management roles
are held by women
in the mid-market.


Senior leaders at Grant Thornton firms we spoke to for this report expressed disappointment at the rate of progress. But there is reason for optimism. Performance is currently ahead of the 20-year trend line, and there has been a clear acceleration post pandemic. This has likely been driven primarily by changing working practices which, although originally forced into place at a more widespread level by Covid-19, opened people’s eyes to the possibility of working in different ways.

Shifts in roles globally

This year marked a significant drop in the percentage of women CEOs to 19% from 28% last year. At large corporates there were significant resignations in 2022/23 and leaders in the mid-market look as though they followed suit.[i] When female CEOs at larger firms were asked about their reasons for leaving these roles, they cited public pressure, caring responsibilities and sometimes that they felt they needed to behave more like men in these roles.[ii]

“Meaningful culture change around working patterns and acceptance of caring responsibilities is a key enabler to retain women in senior leadership. That might mean removing assumptions around caring responsibilities and career aspirations, or recognising that women tend to pick up the majority of the ‘office housework’ such as organising social activities or people management – these important roles need to be valued and measured."
Jenn Barnett, Head of ED&I



Our research confirms that businesses that have more women in senior management may emerge more strongly in 2024 if they create a psychologically safe environment where women feel able to speak as their true selves. In turn, this will allow women to feel more confident speaking up, sharing views, and challenging decisions.

Since 2012, there has been better news across other roles, including HR Director (from 11% in 2012 to 46% in 2024), Chief Financial Officer (12% to 39%) and Sales Director (4% to 26%).

While it’s positive to see that, since 2012, the percentage of women holding each senior role has increased, it’s essential to take a closer look at where the balance of power lies. The fact that CEO has seen such a low level of increase in the past 12 years suggests that although women are increasingly part of the senior management team, they are not necessarily in those most high-profile roles.

Read the full report to discover the global data on women in business [ 15832 kb ]




[i] 'The Great Break-up': Why female leaders are ditching their companies | Euronews
[ii] Why high-flying women face less time at the top than men (

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