Covid’s unforeseen impact on gender diversity
As the war for talent rages on, more than 70% of businesses are now working to create a more inclusive environment to attract and retain female talent according to Grant Thornton International Ltd.’s Women in Business research, which surveys senior leaders from 5,000 businesses across 29 economies.
In the early days of the pandemic, few could have predicted the lasting effect Covid-19 would have on established ways of working. Now, with much of the world stabilising, and recognition from businesses that change was needed, the march toward more inclusive working practices to attract and retain a more diverse talent pool continues unabated. With nearly two thirds (57%) of mid-market leaders expecting a skill shortage to be a major constraint to their businesses in the year ahead, Grant Thornton’s research shows that in response, 95% of mid-market business leaders are now taking action to foster staff engagement and create an inclusive culture.
Kim Schmidt, global leader at Grant Thornton International Ltd. says: “The war for talent and the great resignation are showing no signs of slowing down, and employees have high expectations and the upper hand in negotiations in a way not seen before. We are seeing increasingly inclusive business practices that are designed to entice prospective employees and preserve talent being rolled out. This is ultimately benefiting many women
who, in the past, were confined by more traditional approaches to work. Now, they have the freedom of choice and it’s my expectation that this and more inclusive environments are here to stay for the foreseeable future.”
As these new ways of working become the norm for many organisations, 73% of respondents expect that the impact of COVID-19 will continue to benefit women’s career trajectories long-term – an increase of four percentage points on 2021.This could be an indication that a step change is on the horizon but in the meantime, the number of women in senior management positions continues its glacial progress, advancing just a single
percentage point to 32% in 2022. While any progress is positive in light of Covid-19, this figure that has grown by only eight percentage points over the past ten years, showing that progress is being made, but at a sluggish rate
when measured against many best-practise diversity metrics.
Kim Schmidt says: “Everything gained can be easily lost when we’re talking about progress that is this gradual. As always, there is much more that some businesses could be doing to ensure that we not only maintain this growth but accelerate it. Positive market driven influences are all well and good, but without a consistent and structured approach to gender balance and diversity overall, we could see progress halted or even reversed. Now is not the time to get complacent.”
In 2021, our research revealed that the proportion of women in senior management roles had passed the important 30% tipping threshold for the first time. All global regions have now passed the crucial 30% milestone,
including APAC, which was the only region not to hit this figure in 2021. The proportion of businesses with at least one woman in senior management remains static at 90%.
Notes to editors:
International Business Report
The Grant Thornton 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 10,000 businesses across 29 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 and November 2021 with chief executive officers, managing directors, chairperson or other senior executives from all industry sectors.