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Grant Thornton calls for a push for parity this International Women's Day

Grant Thornton’s 2023 International Business Report (IBR) Women in Business research – surveying 10,000 business leaders in 28 countries – suggests that mid-market businesses must push for pay equity, and quickly as intentional action from businesses is needed to accelerate progress. While progress on the overall number of women in senior leadership continues, this year’s research shows it is concerningly slow. 

On a global level, 32 per cent of senior management positions in mid-market businesses are now held by women, an increase of just half a percentage point (pp) since 2022, and only 13pp since the research was first undertaken in 2004. At this rate, in 2025, just 34 per cent of senior leadership positions across the globe will be held by women. 

Strategies for developing future leaders and ensuring equality

In Australia, the Women in Business research found 48 per cent of Australian businesses stated they have focused on creating an environment where colleagues can ’speak up’ over the past 12 months to ensure employee engagement and inclusion.

Twenty nine percent of Australian respondents believe strong wellbeing and support programs help businesses attract and retain a strong pipeline of future female leaders, noting they need careful monitoring and evaluation to ensure success. Support initiatives create psychological safety for people to speak on plans and ideas, and businesses can learn to adapt so women are provided with more opportunity for leadership roles. Wellbeing and support programs were a close third behind providing mentoring and coaching (35 per cent) and implementing cultural and behavioural change through training programs (30 per cent) as the key factors to attracting and retaining future leaders in Australia.

In addition to support initiatives, recent Australian Government legislation will drive further transparency and see pay discrepancy amongst males and females tightened when employers with over 100 staff will be required to report on the gender pay gap in 2024.

Grant Thornton Australia implements inclusion and equality strategies

Grant Thornton’s Gender Equity Network (GEN) implemented throughout its Australian offices is aimed at empowering women and their allies to promote inclusion and equality within the workplace. GEN intends to reduce barriers when attracting and hiring women, addresses bias and difficulties for women to progress, and builds confidence for future leadership roles.

Holly Stiles, Partner and National Head of Corporate Finance at Grant Thornton Australia said: “Our Gender Equity Action Plan was developed to recognise the need to achieve and maintain gender equity across our organisation. From the action plan, the formation of GEN as an employee network is an optimistic and constructive step in empowering women within our organisation. While it’s not a magic fix to the historic issues, it is allowing our people to have transparent and open conversations about the importance of gender diversity at work – especially when it comes to women in leadership positions. This is an achievement we want to celebrate in line with International Women’s Day.” 

Women in senior leadership roles

Across the globe, the Women in Business research found women in mid-market companies hold 32 per cent of senior management positions, increasing by half-a-percent from prior year findings. In Australian businesses specifically the research reported women hold 39 per cent of senior management positions. While the number has held due to workplace initiatives and ongoing gender equity commitments, there is still more effort required for pay equity. 

Hybrid working model supports gender equity

The global research also revealed businesses who welcomed a hybrid or flexible approach to work post-pandemic are paving the way for pay equity, as businesses operating flexibly have a higher proportion of women in senior management roles (34 per cent and 36 per cent respectively, versus 29 per cent for purely office based). 

While a hybrid working model establishes many positives for women looking to advance their careers, there is concern working from home could hinder progression – especially with increasing calls for ‘returning to the workplace’ in the physical sense. To ensure this is avoided, a positive work culture is paramount for women to be supported and included in conversations about promotion in their role. For businesses to be sustainable into the future, they need to advocate for gender diversity through transparency and support networks – a timely reminder this International Women’s Day.

Grant Thornton International has released more information on its Global IBR Women in Business results below.

Women in Business 2023 - The push for parity

 ** Research methodology of the Grant Thornton International Business Report

Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) is a survey of mid-market businesses. Launched in 1992, the IBR now provides insight into the views and expectations of more than 10,000 businesses across 28 economies. Questionnaires are translated into local languages and fieldwork is undertaken on a biannual basis, through both online and telephone interviews. The data for this release is from interviews conducted in October to December 2022 with chief executive officers, managing directors, chairperson or other senior executives from all industry sectors.

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