Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » Number of women in senior roles falls, Grant Thornton report finds

Senior business roles held by women in the UK have fallen 3% from 2016 (21%) to 2017 (19%), according to a report by leading accountancy firm, Grant Thornton.

On International Women’s Day, this marks only a 1% increase when compared with the first survey conducted in 2004 (18%), showing how little progress has been made over the past decade.

Meanwhile the percentage of businesses in the UK with no women in senior management has also risen from 36% in 2016 to 41% in 2017, according to the report titled Women in Business 2017: New perspectives on risk and reward.

Globally, the proportion of senior business roles held by women has hit a high of 25%. However, the findings again show that progress is slow, with an increase of only 1% compared to 2016.

The results from the annual survey of 5,500 businesses in 36 economies also revealed that the countries with the highest proportion of senior roles held by women are Russia (47%), Indonesia (46%) and Estonia (40%).

The UK had the fifth lowest proportion of women in senior business roles, with Japan recording the lowest (7%) and Argentina second lowest (15%).

Sacha Romanovitch, CEO at Grant Thornton UK LLP commented: “It’s encouraging to see that globally we have seen some improvement in the proportion of senior business roles held by women, however it is moving at a painfully slow rate.

“We know that diversity is central to shaping a vibrant economy in which people and businesses thrive.

“Established notions of leadership are letting women down. The ‘hero model’ of leadership, where the individual commanding must be perfect and the job all-consuming, is still extremely prevalent, whilst more collaborative and inclusive  forms of leadership are overlooked.

This is a real concern as it suggests businesses are squandering the full potential of their people. Businesses need to re-balance what leadership is to make it attractive to future leaders who expect the role to be interesting, meaningful, flexible and with reasonable reward too.”

Globally, the data shows developing regions continue to lead the charge on diversity with developed economies lagging behind.

Eastern Europe performs best, with 38% of senior roles held by women in 2017 and just 9% of businesses with no women in senior management.

Meanwhile, the MINT economies (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) saw the most improvement, with the proportion of senior roles held by women rising from 24% in 2016 to 28% in 2017 and the percentage of businesses with no women in senior management falling from 36% in 2016 to 27% in 2017.

This is a significant contrast to the major economies of the G7, which have remained static at 22% of senior roles held by women and 39% of businesses with no women in senior management.

Sacha Romanovitch added “The increase in businesses lacking gender diversity in senior management comes at a time when companies need to develop resilience in the face of global volatility and increasing levels of uncertainty.

“In the fast changing and unpredictable environment in which we live and work, business leaders need to be asking how they will build for the future to develop a resilience in the business to sustain it through the yet unknown.

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