Grant Thornton’s 2021 women in business report said more flexible working practices, new leadership traits coming to the fore and with the need for a diverse workforce and inclusive culture being never more apparent had been features of the last 12 months.
The pandemic had ‘created a window of opportunity’ to include more women in senior leadership, noted the report, challenging traditional thinking about flexible working and removing unconscious bias – leading to a more positive evaluation of female talent.
‘While the experience for many women in the workplace during 2020 has been challenging – bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s economic and social fallout including job losses, furloughing, and increased caring responsibilities – in the sphere of senior management, the story has been largely positive,’ said the report.
The research showed an increase in the proportion of senior female managers globally at 31%, up from 29% in 2020 – passing a 30% ‘tipping point needed to catalyse real change’.
‘Nine out of 10 businesses worldwide now have at least one woman in their leadership teams. There are more female managing directors and chief executive officers (CEOs) than ever before, with 26% of these roles held by women.
‘How leaders respond to the changed business landscape will dictate whether we now see a significant upswing in these numbers.’
Working practices resulting from the pandemic were expected to have a positive effect on the futures of women leaders, but 45% of those surveyed for the report saying Covid-19 would have a negative short-term effect.
‘In order to avoid this, businesses need to keep the focus on their diversity and inclusion policies, and not assume the battle is won,’ said the report.
Susie Crowder, human capital advisory director at Grant Thornton Channel Islands said: ‘It is fantastic to see such global progress being made by women in the workplace.
‘New working conditions, accelerated by the pandemic, supported by effective leadership and culture will deliver continued pragmatic change in a post pandemic world.
‘Flexible working has and will continue to encourage more women into work and for those already working on a part time basis, an increase in working hours is likely.
‘Having been afforded the gift of flexible working will undoubtedly facilitate further positive change in this area.’
She added: The role of diversity in business and particularly at senior levels has a consistent track record in delivering better results.
‘To have nine out of 10 women in senior leadership roles around the world is a great achievement. It will encourage and inspire younger women to realise their aims and desires of holding a similar role.
‘The shift is likely to continue when we consider the most sought after skills in a post pandemic world; empathy, compassion and emotional intelligence are high on the list; traits and skills held most naturally by women.
‘Casting an eye across the Bailiwick, it is encouraging to see peers such as Elaine Grey as the first female president of the Chamber of Commerce, Deputy Soulsby as the first female vice-president of the Policy and Resources committee and Wendy Dorey as head of the IoD.
‘Indeed, the number of female non-execs on the circuit today is also encouraging. We have lots of reasons to be optimistic about this consistent, pragmatic development that will undoubtedly play a key role in our recovery.’