• Grant Thornton International Ltd.’s annual Women in Business report

More businesses have women in senior leadership roles but a meaningful gender balance remains elusive

Toronto, ON - March 8, 2018

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it’s important to examine the role of gender diversity in the workplace. According to Grant Thornton International Ltd.’s annual Women in Business report, a wider culture of diversity and inclusion championed from the top is needed to create change.

international womens day

Report findings show that globally, the percentage of businesses with at least one woman in senior management has risen from 66% in 2017 to 75% in 2018. However, the proportion of senior roles held by women has fallen from 25% to 24% over the same timeframe. It seems that the countries in which businesses have the most policies in place are not necessarily gender diverse. The research shows that barriers still exist and a fundamental change is required.

“Many business owners struggle to foster true diversity and inclusion. It’s important that they move beyond policy and focus on the vital role leadership and culture can play in creating real progress in gender balance,” says Dawne-Marie Macleod, Grant Thornton Partner and Chair of the firms Leading Inclusively Leadership Council. “At Grant Thornton, we have embraced this approach and are committed to continuing to foster a culture where everyone is empowered to play to their strengths and capitalize on their differences to help our clients, colleagues and communities thrive.” 

It’s clear that a policy alone is not the key to driving parity, as far as gender diversity in leadership is concerned. No specific policy can solve the inherent complexities of the gender challenge; however, focusing on the environment into which they are introduced can make a difference. Based on research collected from the report, here are the top five recommendations for business leaders to build gender diversity and inclusivity in their businesses:

  • Champion the cause: To create change, senior leaders need to take the issue seriously and lead from the top.
  • Make diversity and inclusion a core value: Organizational values drive behavior, so it’s important that the whole business is signed up to diversity and inclusion. 
  • Set goals: Making gender diversity a core value is not enough in itself; business leaders should set clear goals by which they will measure progress.
  • Investigate the benefits: Evidence of the commercial gains brought by gender diversity will help convince skeptics of the need for change and provide justification for investment in new initiatives.
  • Share your story: Business leaders who are open about what is driving change in their own companies can encourage others and help them overcome the complexity of turning theory into action.

Grant Thornton is committed to creating a culture of diversity and inclusion, championed through its Leading Inclusively Leadership Council and Inclusiveness Partners in each Grant Thornton office. In 2017, Grant Thornton was recognized as one of the Best Workplaces for Women and more recently, the 2018 Best Workplaces for Inclusion.  

Read the full International Women in Business report. 

Notes to editors:

The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR), launched in 1992 initially in nine European countries, now provides insight into the views and expectations of more than 10,000 businesses per year across 35 countries.


For more information :
Questionnaires are translated into local languages with each participating country having the option to ask a small number of country-specific questions in addition to the core questionnaire. Fieldwork is undertaken on a quarterly basis, primarily by telephone. IBR is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. The data for this release are drawn from interviews with more than 4,995 chief executive officers, managing directors, chairmen or other senior executives from all industry sectors conducted in July to December of 2017.