Lone Woman in the Boardroom: U.S. Women’s Representation in Senior Business Roles Retreats

Percentage of U.S. businesses with no women in leadership roles down—but proportion of senior roles held by women overall decreased

CHICAGO--()--To coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, a new report based on Grant Thornton International Ltd.’s quarterly survey of 2,500 mid-market businesses in 35 economies reveals little progress of women in senior leadership roles in the United States.

The report, Women in Business 2018: beyond policy to progress, reveals a 12 percent decrease in American companies without any women in senior management. However, the total number of women in senior management in the U.S. decreased two percentage points since 2017. This indicates there are fewer women in management in U.S. businesses overall, but more solitary women in companies previously lacking gender diversity.

Specific findings from the report include:

  • The percentage of U.S. businesses with no women in senior management decreased from 31 percent in 2017 to 19 percent in 2018. The percentage of businesses globally with no women in senior management decreased from 34 percent in 2017 to 25 percent in 2018.
  • The proportion of senior roles held by women in the U.S. decreased to 21 percent, which is down two percentage points from 2017, and is up only one percent since the start of the research 14 years ago.

“The lack of progress when it comes to women’s representation in senior roles is disconcerting, particularly in the past year, when there has been so much collective dialogue about the benefits of gender diversity—and the perils of its absence,” said Nicole Blythe, National Managing Partner, People Experience at Grant Thornton. “Additionally, while the decrease in the percentage of companies with no women in management is encouraging, the proliferation of lone voices is unsettling. We recommend companies be mindful of tokenism – one woman on the senior management team isn’t enough to ensure a range of voices is heard, nor does the business reap the rewards of diversity and inclusion.”

Growing women’s voices at Grant Thornton

Juxtaposed a day apart from the release of this report, Grant Thornton LLP was yesterday named one of the 2018 NAFE Top Companies for Executive Women by the National Association for Female Executives. This year’s list recognizes 70 American companies where women have significant clout to make the decisions that affect their company’s future and bottom line. It is the sixth time Grant Thornton has been recognized for the honor.

Recommendations for business leaders

This year’s Women in Business report indicates disparities between what businesses aim to do in terms of gender equality and diversity, and what they have put into action. Grant Thornton has outlined 10 recommendations to business leaders on changing their organization’s leadership, policy and culture to address these key issues.

The recommendations range from making diversity and inclusion a core value to avoiding tokenism and being comfortable with discomfort. The first foundational step to create change is having senior leaders be the champion of the cause.

Diversity among American businesses

According to Grant Thornton’s IBR data, while U.S. businesses indicate diversity of age, ethnicity and gender is important, the majority of companies have not implemented specific policies to address these areas.

For example, 53 percent of U.S. businesses surveyed said age diversity is important to success, but only 13 percent had specific policies to address it. Additionally, 54 percent of companies said ethnic diversity is important; however, only 14 percent of those surveyed had a related policy, and ethnic diversity in the U.S. is not representative of the population. With regard to gender, 60 percent of U.S. businesses said gender diversity is important, yet only 17 percent indicated they have gender-specific policies.

The full report Women in Business 2018: beyond policy to progress is available at www.grantthornton.com/culture.

Notes to editors

The data for this release are drawn from telephone interviews of 200 U.S.-based chief executive officers, managing directors, chairs or other senior executives from all industry sectors conducted from July-December of 2017. Globally, data was drawn from telephone interviews of 2,500 C-suite business leaders, conducted in their local languages.

It is part of the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR), launched in 1992 initially in nine European countries, which provides insight into the views and expectations of more than 10,000 businesses per year across 35 countries. IBR is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. Data collection was managed by Grant Thornton research partner, Millward Brown.

About Grant Thornton LLP

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Katharine Nichols, +1 312 602 8376