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Report: Women in Business 2021

The number of women holding senior leadership positions in mid-market businesses globally has hit 31% despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting economies around the world, according to Grant Thornton’s annual Women in Business report. Francesca Lagerberg, global leader at Grant Thornton International Ltd says: “Passing the 30% of women in senior roles globally is an important milestone for businesses, but not the end goal. Those businesses that want to reap the benefits of a better gender balance, must continue to take action to enable women to realise their ambitions.”

Another encouraging finding is the types of leadership roles women are occupying. Grant Thornton’s research reveals higher numbers of women across operational C-suite roles compared to last year, with the proportion of female CEOs up 6pp to 26%, female CFOs also up 6pp to 36%, and female COOs up 4pp to 22%. Additionally, 69% of respondents agree that in their organisations, new working practices as a result of COVID-19 will benefit women’s career trajectories long-term.

While the number of women in leadership roles has grown, questions remain over the impact of the pandemic on women, particularly working mothers. UN data shows that, before the pandemic, women did three times as much unpaid housework as men, and mounting evidence indicates that COVID-19 is only increasing this disparity – as well as adding the extra responsibilities of childcare and home schooling while schools are closed.

Oriana Abela, Grant Thornton Malta Partner for Capital Markets, recognizes the struggle of being a working mother. “Work has increased significantly over the past few months, and with three children around, I can assure you that homeschooling and handling a professional career is difficult when they are at home. It is challenging having continuous calls all day long, trying to meet deadlines and client expectations, as well as having kids who expect to have my constant attention”, says Oriana. Her sentiments are echoed by Victoria Darmanin, Senior Manager for People and Culture, Learning and Development, who recognizes that, while she found support from her colleagues and superiors, the pandemic has nonetheless “hit parents of young children like a ton of bricks with the addition of more housework, home schooling worries, and struggles to find a good work-life balance.”

Remote working helped release the burden, but it also meant longer working hours for many. “Remote working for me has worked well and I feel that I am more productive at home since the working hours have extended to 10 - 12 hours a day although this has completely changed my work/life balance”, says Sharon Causon, Partner for Audit and Assurance. “However, it was not easy to cope with the change since we initially experienced delays from clients. As time passed, we got more organised and in control of things, and any delays are now tackled immediately”, says Sharon. Remote working now allows everyone at Grant Thornton Malta to optimize their working days by saving commuting time, while all the service lines make efficient use of technology. Even though the pandemic brought about new and unexpected challenges for the women at Grant Thornton, they all agree on the fact that the firm is understanding and offers its support to adjust to the new reality.

For more than 15 years, Grant Thornton has been reporting on gender diversity in senior management among the world’s mid-market businesses.The 2021 report is available at this link >