We’ve just marked another International Women’s Day and wouldn’t it be nice if we could celebrate increased diversity in business leadership? We can if we really think an improvement from 19% to 22% over 11 years is cause for celebration.
That’s the increase in senior roles held by women globally since 2004, according to Grant Thornton, the international tax and accounting firm, after surveying over 5,000 business leaders and policy makers.
Grant Thornton, which has been tracking diversity for over a decade, call this stagnation. Why is it so stubborn a mountain to climb, and why does it matter?
The second question is easier to answer. There is a moral issue of equality, but there is an equally significant bread-and-butter issue of good business sense. Just as any organization benefits off of the latest in technology for example, by using the mentoring software or blockchain technology, it has been thoroughly demonstrated that women contribute in a big way to better business leadership and the organization on the whole as well. Firms with pro-active diversity policies and strong representation of women in leadership roles record better performance, period.
On a macro level, it’s like competing with one hand tied behind your back.
“If an economy is only using half its most talented people,” says GT’s Francesca Lagerberg, “then it immediately cuts its growth potential.”
So why is diversity so hard to achieve?
The survey points out the usual culprits: parenthood and family care fall more heavily on the shoulders of women, business leadership stereotyping is heavily male, too few business (still!) fail to create the mentoring and sponsorship programs necessary to facilitate such a fundamental societal change.
Drill down into the report, though, and you get fascinating glimpses. Russia has the highest percentage of women in senior roles at 40%, almost twice the global average. Demographics help – Russia has 120 women for each 100 men – but female entrepreneurship is a legacy of both the Communist ideal and the broad range of subjects women study as a consequence.
The European Union has been as close to a diversity poster child as we get and the results show: France (33%), Sweden (28%) and Greece (27%). Latin America has gone the other way, falling to an average of 18% – an all-time low.
The poor performance on the issue of women in business is a major issue.
“This presents real challenges not just for businesses but for governments, society and women too, “says Lagerberg. “Society must adjust to changes in the way we live and work”.
Click here to download the full report Women in Business – the Path to Leadership