Grant Thornton Women in the Workplace Study reveals progress

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An annual study has shown that the number of women in leadership roles has surpassed the 30% mark, widely considered a catalyst for real change. However, findings also show the global progress of women in senior management has progressed slower than hoped over the past decade.

Unsurprisingly, Grant Thornton’s Women in Business report revealed women’s employment and career development opportunities have been impacted significantly by the global coronavirus pandemic in the past 12 months.

The leading advisory business has been conducting in-depth research for the past 17 years. Grant Thornton in the Isle of Man forms part of its wider global network, drawing on the views of almost 5,000 companies and assessing what foundations are being put in place by businesses around the world.

Claire Watterson, a director at the Athol Street-based firm, says the Women in Business Report again shows the emergence of a more diverse and inclusive leadership model, while highlighting the steps still required to create a change in the proportion of high-level roles held by women.

Claire Watterson, Director, Grant Thornton, Isle of Man explains:

‘It is quite clear that, globally, more effort is being made to ensure gender parity and the worldwide media coverage of these findings is further proof of that.

‘Obviously the last 12 months has been like no other and the unprecedented events have had an unforeseen and unparalleled impact on women’s progress amid a fundamental shift in global working practices.

‘Yet, at the same time, those more flexible working practices, new leadership traits and the need for a diverse workforce and culture have arguably never been more apparent than in the past year.

‘Progress towards greater diversity and inclusion, and particularly gender parity in senior management, may not be moving as quickly as some would like but important steps continue to be made.’

The pandemic ‘created a window of opportunity’ to include more women in senior leadership, noted the report, challenging traditional thinking about flexible working and removing unconscious bias – leading to a more positive evaluation of female talent.

It further highlighted the benefits of diversity at senior level, pinpointing improved financial performance, leveraging talent, reflecting the marketplace and customer perspectives, and increased innovation – all considered factors to help businesses successfully navigate uncertain times.

The research also showed an increase in the proportion of senior female managers globally at 31%, up from 29% in 2020, passing the 30% tipping point needed to catalyse real change. It showed nine out of 10 businesses worldwide now have at least one woman in their leadership teams with more female managing directors and chief executive officers than ever before, with 26% of these roles held by women.

Claire added: ‘The role of diversity in business and particularly at senior levels has a consistent track record in delivering better results so it is fantastic to see such global progress being made by women in the workplace.

‘To have an increasing number of women in senior leadership positions around the world is a great achievement. It will encourage and inspire younger women to realise their aims and desires of holding a similar role.

‘How leaders respond to the changed business landscape will dictate whether we now see a significant upswing in gender parity in senior management, and a more inclusive working environment for all.

‘I am proud to be part of a firm which recognises the importance of gender equality and values female leadership.’

The Women in Business 2021 report is now live on the global website. Click here to view the report.


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