40% of women in Ireland now hold senior management positions, which is up from 30% in 2022, according to Grant Thornton’s research into women in business in the global mid-market. This research was concted as part of Grant Thornton’s annual International Business Report. The 10% jump marks a significant year-on-year increase, after just 2% and 3% increases in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
Ireland also fares well when compared to our nearest neighbours in the UK, where 33% of women hold senior management positions, as well as the United States, where just 31% of females occupy senior management roles. While there has been an upward trend in the number of women holding senior positions globally, overall progress has been slow, increasing just 0.5% in a year to 32.4%, and 13% since the research was first undertaken in 2004.
Commenting on the research, Grant Thornton Ireland Chairperson, Sinead Donovan, said: “It’s hugely positive to see that Irish businesses are actively placing value on diversity and inclusion not just amongst their staff but also amongst their leadership teams. 10% is a significant yearly increase, especially when compared to the picture globally, where progress has unfortunately been much slower.
While this is a positive step for Ireland, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to be done in order to narrow the playing field between men and women even further. Research shows that greater diversity in the workplace doesn’t just benefit the individuals, it also benefits business. At Grant Thornton we are constantly looking for ways to do business better and having a diverse workforce where every person is awarded equal opportunity regardless of their gender is one important way of doing that.
In Ireland, Venture Capital or private equity houses now insist on diversity in terms of board make-up. We are also seeing increasing pressure from clients and investors, which will push mid-market businesses to introduce measures that increase the percentage of female senior managers. I expect this will be the case across the European Union and North America, given the particular focus on ESG reporting in these regions.”
Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) has been casting a light on the issue of gender diversity in senior management at mid-market businesses for 19 years, exposing barriers and identifying facilitators of change. While the overall progress in Ireland is positive, an alarming 15% of Irish businesses currently have no women in senior management roles. Globally, that figure stands at 9%.
Impact of flexible working
According to the report, the changes in working practices prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic have had a positive impact on women progressing into senior leadership roles. Grant Thornton’s research has found that businesses with flexible, hybrid and home-based models in place have the highest levels of women in senior leadership roles. In businesses that have adopted a hybrid way of working, 34% of senior leaders are women, while in businesses that are fully flexible where staff choose how they work, it is 36%. Just 29% of senior management is female in businesses with predominantly office-based models.
Supporting women into senior leadership roles has been a priority for Grant Thornton for many years now and it has introduced numerous inclusive policies and initiatives to reflect this, including family friendly policies and increased working flexibility. Investment in dedicated female talent development programmes has also been introduced. From 2020 to 2022, female representation at partner level increased by 7%. In 2022, 60% of internal director promotions at the firm were female, a figure which Grant Thornton aims to increase to 69% in 2023.