Twenty years of women in business insights

2024 marks the 20th year of Grant Thornton’s work to monitor and measure the proportion of women occupying senior management roles in mid-market companies around the world.

The Women in Business project has explored what helps, and what hinders, women in the workplace through a period that’s offered plenty of challenge. Global midmarket companies have navigated the financial crisis of 2007-08, worked through the pandemic and currently contend with the impact of geopolitical tension and conflict.

The global economy continues to shift and mid-market organisations are under more pressure than ever to adapt. Faced with such changes, it’s crucial that we maintain focus: the challenge of getting women into senior management is as urgent as it has ever been. Many mid-market businesses have responded to this imperative, and there have been improvements. We must ensure this momentum continues and accelerates.

Jennifer Gosse comments on the findings of the 2024 Women in Business Report.

“Our data from this year’s research indicates that the progress achieved so far on women in senior management is fragile. We have seen a dramatic decrease in the percentage of female CEOs this year, suggesting a shift away from women holding positions of real power within an organisation.”

Progress on parity is still too slow

When Grant Thornton first began its research, just 19.4% of senior management roles were held by women in the mid-market. Today, that figure stands at 33.5%. While this is progress, and there has been some acceleration since the pandemic, it is disappointingly slow. At this current rate of change, the mid-market will not reach parity on women in senior management roles until 2053.

Our data from this year’s research indicates that the progress achieved so far is fragile. We have seen a dramatic decrease in the percentage of female CEOs, suggesting a shift away from women holding positions of real power within an organisation. This sounds a warning bell to us all that it’s not enough just to get women into senior management roles – determined action is also needed to keep them there. We must focus, or we might start to go backwards.

Pathways to parity

While our research allows us to measure progress, it also enables us to understand what needs to change to accelerate it – to identify the business configurations that can drive change and provide actionable steps businesses can take.

Mid-market companies are key drivers of the global economy, and it is their agility and their ability to make significant changes in a short period of time that sets them apart. If they adopt these pathways to parity in significant numbers, based on our experience, I firmly believe it’s possible for mid-market businesses to achieve 50% of women in senior management positions within the next five years. The pathways are there – it’s now up to businesses to follow them.

Our three pathways to parity:

  • Our three pathways to parity:

    Who leads Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I)efforts within an organisation is key.

    A member of the C-suite needs to take responsibility, but they must work alongside another female senior leader. This pairing has a clear positive impact on the percentage of senior management roles held by women. 

  • Our three pathways to parity:

    A clear strategy must be in place.

    Businesses must have specific DE&I goals, and they must regularly measure success. 

  • Our three pathways to parity:

    How we work has a real impact.

    Our research reveals a move back towards the office, yet businesses that offer greater flexibility have a higher percentage of senior management roles held by women. 

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Pathways to parity

Download our full Women in Business report to discover more of our insights