United States trails much of world with representation of women in business leadership

In honor of International Women's Day, Grant Thornton study shows the proportion of senior roles held by women in U.S. and percentage of American businesses with no women in senior management remain unchanged.

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In honor of International Women’s Day, a new report based on Grant Thornton International Ltd.’s annual survey of 5,500 businesses in 36 economies reveals the United States continues to lag much of the world when it comes to the proportion of women in senior business roles.

The report, “Women in Business: New perspectives on risk and reward,” reveals that the global proportion of senior business roles held by women has reached a high of 25%. However, the figure is an increase of just 1% from 2016, and has only improved 6% in the 13 years since the research began. This progress, while slow, outpaces the United States, which saw no year-over-year change.

Key U.S. findings from the report include:
● The proportion of senior roles held by women remained the same at 23%, which is up only 3% since the start of the research 13 years ago;
● The percentage of businesses with no women in senior management remained unchanged at 31%;
● Human resource director (27%), chief financial officer (16%), chief marketing officer (10%) and chief operating officer (10%) are the most common senior business roles for U.S. women; and
● The percentage of women holding the role of chief executive officer increased from 5% to 9% year over year.

“The lack of significant progress to increase the number of women in senior executive roles in recent years is concerning,” said Pamela Harless, chief people and culture officer of Grant Thornton LLP. “There’s no shortage of data on the rational business case for increasing women’s representation, but leaders are far more effective when they advance the conversation from a place of real passion and by holding themselves accountable for creating an inclusive and diverse environment.”

Grant Thornton’s global report shows that developing regions continue to outperform developed economies in terms of diversity in senior management. Eastern Europe performed best, with 38% of senior roles held by women in 2017, up from 35% in 2016, and the percentage of businesses with no women in senior management falling from 16% in 2016 to just 9% in 2017. 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.

The report also explores the role of gender when it comes to managing the threat and seizing the opportunity for growth that risk can bring. The findings illustrate that men and women see risks and opportunities through a different lens, which provides a diversity of thinking when combined together. Data from the report reveals that women overall see lower levels of risk when considering aspects of organizational and commercial life such as political or economic change, as well as lower levels of opportunity.

“Men tend to consider whether taking a risk will facilitate strategic growth, whereas women focus more on the wider environment and the impact on people,” added Harless. She explains that strategic risk is often better publicized and more highly regarded, so “while women may be taking as many risks, they do so in areas that aren’t as visible.”

The full report Women in Business 2017: New perspectives on risk and reward is available at http://www.internationalbusinessreport.com

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