Proportion of women in senior management grows to 32%

10 March 2022 3 min. read
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The proportion of women in mid-market senior management roles grew to 32%, according to Grant Thornton’s 2022 Women in Business report – up from 31% in 2021. The accounting and consulting firm surveyed 5,000 global mid-market leaders between October and December in 29 countries.

Proactive policies in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have led to a steady increase of women in senior management roles, growing from 21% in 2012 to 32% today. Canada sat slightly below the survey’s global median, at 30%.

According to Grant Thornton, 30% is the tipping point required to “precipitate significant change” in gender parity. The firm says that if current trends persist, 2025 could see 34% of global senior management positions held by women.

The report notes that increasingly flexible work options driven by the pandemic may have also helped boost women in leadership roles, and could lead to longer term increases in female senior leaders. Three-quarters (73%) of survey respondents said changes in working practices due to the pandemic will benefit women’s career paths in the long term, including more flexible work and hybrid location models. In Canada, respondents were cooler on the prospect, with 43% agreeing.

Proportion of women in senior management roles globally, 2011-2022

Increased flexibility would make it easier for women to balance work and home life and remain with employers as they move through life stages.

With more than half of organizations expecting talent shortages to be a major constraint on their businesses in the next 12 months, bringing more women into senior roles could also help mitigate talent shortfalls.

“Any organization that imposes inflexible ways of working is going to struggle,” said Kim Schmidt, global leader – leadership, people, and culture at Grant Thornton International. “The winners will be those organizations that are on the diversity and inclusion journey, that are remaining open to continuous changes and saying, ‘we’re going to support people to work differently.'”

Positions held by women in senior management globally

The survey found that 90% of respondents had at least one woman in the C-suite or equivalent. The top position held by women remained HR director, at 39%. However, CFO was close behind – increasing from 30% in 2020 to 36% in 2022. The increase of women in CMO roles also continued, from 18% in 2020 to 24% in 2022.

The proportion of women CEOs/MDs, COOs, and CIOs remained relatively stable. Women CEOs dropped from 26% in 2021 to 24% in 2022 (but well above the 20% in 2020), COOs were unchanged at 23%, and CIOs dropped from 21% in 2021 to 19% in 2022.

“It is worth noting that the nature of C-suite roles is changing, with a less siloed approach to areas of responsibility,” said Grant Thornton International’s Larissa Keijzer. “HR director, often a role held by women, used to be a very functional role, but with the war for talent, it will become a much more strategic one. And once women are in a strategic role, they will not give it up.”