India third globally for women in senior management positions

08 March 2021 3 min. read
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India is the third most advanced country worldwide when it comes to women in senior management of mid-market businesses, according to a new report by Grant Thornton released ahead of today’s International Women’s Day.

Grant Thornton has been reporting on the number of women in senior management since 2004, and found that for the first time on record the average number of leadership roles held by females worldwide has surpassed the 30% mark. In comparison, in 2004 that percentage stood at 19%.

Notably, India is a frontrunner in gender diversity in management, with the domestic percentage at 39%, versus the global average of 31%. According to Vishesh Chandiok, CEO of Grant Thornton Bharat, this signals the changing outlook of Indian businesses towards women's position in the labour market and further down the line the willingness to actually adopt a diverse culture. 

Change in the proportion of women in senior management across regions

“With more women taking on leadership roles and diversity on board, businesses will open new opportunities for growth,” Chandiok said. A Boston Consulting Group report from 2018 found that companies with above average management level diversity gain a 19% premium on revenue growth compared to underperforming peers, while a 2020 report by Australian researchers noted a similar correlation

Pallavi Bakhru, a Partner at Grant Thornton Bharat, said that India’s results are particularly impressive in light of the “challenging circumstances of 2020” which have seen “the boundaries between work and home blurred.”

Kim Schmidt, Global Leader of Grant Thornton’s Leadership, People and Culture practice, added, “The pandemic has created a window of opportunity to include more women in senior management. The most obvious initial impact was that many of us were forced to work from home. This challenged traditional thinking around what working flexibly means and should have a lasting impact on how leaders think about it.” 

Regional proportion of leadership roles held by women in 2021, and position relative to the 30% tipping point

“It might even have changed some decisions leaders made during 2020, by removing unconscious biases, and led to a more positive evaluation of female talent.”

Further reading: Opportunities for female entrepreneurs in India amid pandemic

However, it is by no means certain that Covid-19 will have a lasting positive effect on the futures of women leaders. Schmidt: “45% of leaders still believe Covid-19 might have a negative impact on women’s career trajectories in the short term. In order to avoid this, businesses need to keep the focus on their diversity and inclusion policies, and not assume the battle is won.”

As with any change to be successful, leaders will need to spearhead the change and lead by example. “Growing diversity and inclusion will require leaders to demonstrate specific traits, including adaptability, resilience, the ability to collaborate, and, in particular, empathy,” said Schmidt.