Long way to go for gender parity in senior leadership

13 March 2023 Consulting.ca 2 min. read
More news on

Women make up just 32.4% of senior leadership in mid-market business globally, according to Grant Thornton’s annual Women in Business report, up 13 points from 2004.

Businesses in Canada have a higher proportion of women leaders than the global figure, with 39% (up 17% from 2004).

According to the Grant Thornton report, the global journey to leadership parity is stagnating. At the current rate, only 34% of senior leadership roles will be occupied by women in 2025, and 36.5% in 2030. WEF research estimates it will take 132 years to close the global gender gap.

Grant Thornton says businesses need to approach the parity issue with intentionality, and that several factors will help accelerate progress.

Increasing the number of women chief executives could place additional focus on diversity initiatives at their companies. Twenty-eight percent of mid-market firms have a woman CEO or managing director, up from 15% in 2019.

Pushing for parity

Investor and societal pressure around ESG initiatives could also help spur on faster gender parity. Shifts in investor guidelines could lead to more companies missing out on capital if their diversity metrics fall short.

“The ESG movement is encouraging businesses to stand back and think about their impacts, both now and into the future. As a result, we’re seeing a positive ripple effect on diverse representation across the board,” said Lauren Bonnett, senior manager, assurance and ESG at Grant Thornton Canada. “It’s no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but for many industries, a necessity to be accountable to investors, seize growth opportunities, and sustain long-term success.”

The report notes that perhaps the most significant factor in boosting female senior leadership numbers is a continued commitment to flexible and hybrid work. Grant Thornton says businesses that offer flexible or hybrid work models have significantly higher numbers of women in senior management roles.

“Hybrid and flexible working models aren’t without challenges,” the report states. “Organizations should have a culture and resources to facilitate these arrangements, such as optimizing collaboration and time in the office, providing appropriate technology, and supporting workers in and out of the office.”

The consulting firm says creating mentoring and coaching programs – alongside transparent leadership pathways and an overall inclusive culture – also help break the glass ceiling.