2024 marks the 20th year of Grant Thornton’s work to monitor and measure the proportion of women occupying senior management roles in mid-market companies around the world.

The Women in Business project has explored what helps, and what hinders, women in the workplace through a period that’s offered plenty of challenge. Global mid-market companies have navigated the financial crisis of 2007-08, worked through the pandemic and currently contend with the impact of geopolitical tension and conflict.

The global economy continues to shift and mid-market organisations are under more pressure than ever to adapt. Faced with such changes, it's crucial that we maintain focus: the challenge of getting women into senior management is as urgent as it has ever been. Many mid-market businesses have responded to this imperative, and there have been improvements. We must ensure this momentum continues and accelerates.


Progress on parity is still too slow

When Grant Thornton first began its research, just 19.4% of senior management roles were held by women in the mid-market. Today, that figure stands at 33.5%. While this is progress, and there has been some acceleration since the pandemic, it is disappointingly slow. At this current rate of change, the mid-market will not reach parity on women in senior management roles until 2053.

Our data from this year’s research indicates that the progress achieved so far on is fragile. We have seen a dramatic decrease in the percentage of female CEOs, suggesting a shift away from women holding positions of real power within an organisation. This sounds a warning bell to us all that it’s not enough just to get women into senior management roles – determined action is also needed to keep them there. We must focus, or we might start to go backwards.

Three pathways to parity

While our research allows us to measure progress, it also enables us to understand what needs to change to accelerate it – to identify the business configurations that can drive change and provide actionable steps businesses can take. In this year’s report, we have set out three clear pathways to parity:

Mid-market companies are key drivers of the global economy, and it is their agility and their ability to make significant changes in a short period of time that sets them apart. If they adopt these pathways to parity in significant numbers, based on our experience, I firmly believe it’s possible for mid-market businesses to achieve 50% of women in senior management positions within the next five years.

The pathways are there – it’s now up to businesses to follow them.

Download the report to explore our three pathways to parity in full.

The global picture

Women in business across the globe

This year sees a 1.1pp increase in the percentage of senior management roles held by women, up from 32.4% in 2023 to 33.5%. When we began tracking the percentage 20 years ago, just 19.4% of senior positions were held by women. Since the pandemic, progress has accelerated but it still remains slow. Without a greater focus on the issue, women’s parity in senior management won’t be reached until 2053 at the current rate.


of senior management roles
are held by women
in the mid-market.


Senior leaders at Grant Thornton firms we spoke to for this report expressed disappointment at the rate of progress. But there is reason for optimism. Performance is currently ahead of the 20-year trend line, and there has been a clear acceleration post pandemic. This has likely been driven primarily by changing working practices which, although originally forced into place at a more widespread level by Covid-19, opened people’s eyes to the possibility of working in different ways.

Shifts in roles globally

This year marked a significant drop in the percentage of women CEOs to 19% from 28% last year. At large corporates there were significant resignations in 2022/23 and leaders in the mid-market look as though they followed suit.[i] When female CEOs at larger firms were asked about their reasons for leaving these roles, they cited public pressure, caring responsibilities and sometimes that they felt they needed to behave more like men in these roles.[ii]

Our research confirms that businesses that have more women in senior management may emerge more strongly in 2024 if they create a psychologically safe environment where women feel able to speak as their true selves. In turn, this will allow women to feel more confident speaking up, sharing views, and challenging decisions.

Since 2012, there has been better news across other roles, including HR Director (from 11% in 2012 to 46% in 2024), Chief Financial Officer (12% to 39%) and Sales Director (4% to 26%).

While it’s positive to see that, since 2012, the percentage of women holding each senior role has increased, it’s essential to take a closer look at where the balance of power lies. The fact that CEO has seen such a low level of increase in the past 12 years suggests that although women are increasingly part of the senior management team, they are not necessarily in those most high-profile roles.

Read the full report to discover the global data on women in business →




[i] 'The Great Break-up': Why female leaders are ditching their companies | Euronews
[ii] Why high-flying women face less time at the top than men (telegraph.co.uk)