In an increasingly volatile and uncertain market, more needs to be done to promote gender diversity within leadership teams, says Mo Merali
Diversity has been on the business agenda for many years now, but with a third of businesses still without women at a senior management level, something is clearly not working.
We know that significant performance benefits come with having a diverse leadership team and there are certainly a large number of women capable of joining such teams. The question is: do they want to? And are companies doing and saying the right things to appeal to women? There seems to be a disconnect.
The business case for gender diversity among business leadership teams is established. It reduces the risk of group-think and opens new opportunities for growth. Diversity also improves the bottom line: research conducted by Grant Thornton shows that listed companies with male-only boards in the UK, US and India alone are foregoing potential profits of $655bn. And diversity is even more important given the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world in which businesses now operate.
Increased globalisation, concerns over sustainability and technological advances are transforming the business environment. So how can businesses prepare? They need to be able to anticipate change, understand potential future risks and develop solutions to overcome them and grow. This requires input from diverse perspectives.
Yet despite overwhelming evidence of the benefits of gender diversity in leadership and promises of action from companies and governments around the world, we have made little progress. Globally, the level of women in senior roles has risen just 3% in the past five years.
So what needs to change?
Building on its research over 10 years into women in business, this year Grant Thornton explored the different motivations that drive men and women to push for leadership positions and the different attributes each gender values in leaders.
Grant Thornton's full report Women in business: turning promise into practice, will be shared on international women's day on 8 March. The research found that companies and women value the attributes of good leadership differently and have different understandings of how they will look in practice. Companies need to understand what drives the desire to lead and how they can articulate the benefits of leadership.
In the VUCA world, businesses need the best leadership they can get, so it's vital they respond to this challenge.
To read the full results and recommendations from Grant Thornton's Women in Business report click here.
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