The second pathway: A focused DE&I strategy is key

If there’s no plan, there’s no progress: to achieve parity of women in senior management roles, businesses need to have a DE&I strategy in place. The most successful strategy is one which focuses on DE&I alone, independent of a broader ESG strategy.

Mid-market firms with a DE&I strategy, but no ESG strategy, have the highest percentage of senior management roles held by women (38%) - slightly more than businesses which have both a DE&I strategy and an ESG strategy (36%). If businesses do not have a DE&I strategy or an ESG strategy, the percentage drops to 28%.  

Priyanka Gulati comments: “Without a strategy on DE&I you won't have the backing of the senior leadership driving it. You need to have a clear path.”

Holly Stiles, Partner, National head of corporate finance and Executive sponsor of GEN at Grant Thornton Australia adds: “Having a specific DE&I strategy is important and enables a deeper focus on practical initiatives to drive change towards equity. It should be entwined into business objectives and embedded in the organisation's culture and values.”

Isabel Perea, Audit partner and head of ED&I commission at Grant Thornton Spain agrees: “We believe that progress on equity and diversity must be strategically separated, in order to achieve organisational goals.” 

Measurement matters  

Understanding the progress and measuring success is a crucial part of a DE&I strategy. Maddie Wollerton Blanks explains the importance: “There’s an age-old adage: what gets measured gets done. That rings true when it comes to women in business, as much as it does with any other element of business performance.”

Tracking the gender pay equality remains a challenge. Our research finds at mid-market firms, the most tracked metric for measuring the success of DE&I strategies is gender pay equality, which 47% of respondents say their businesses measures. In many countries, a recently introduced legal or regulatory requirement has forced firms to begin disclosing their gender pay gaps.[xi]

Michelle Alphonso Partner, National transaction advisory services and Private equity leader at Grant Thornton Canada, comments: “Tracking and addressing gender pay equity is a significant driver towards parity and it is a gap that is so easy to remediate.”  

What measurement has the biggest impact?

Analysis of the impact different measurements have on the percentage of senior management roles held by women, shows very little variation. If there are clear indicators of DE&I performance being measured, businesses will outperform the global benchmark.  

Nathalie Margraitte, Partner, Grant Thornton France, adds: “Businesses must be transparent about their performance on DE&I. They have to be open and honest, in order to build trust and show that they are committed to making a change.” 

The result of tracking gender pay and raising the number of women in senior management positions, could result in major economic benefits worldwide. Understanding that there is an issue is a good first step, but businesses must act. According to a World Bank study, closing the pay gap and achieving equal participation in the workforce would result in a huge boost to the world economy – a ‘Gender Dividend’ worth $172 trillion.[v] 

Pallavi Joshi Bakhru says: “Measuring the number of women who have moved into senior management positions is very important to understand whether, internally, women are being championed to progress and move up the ladder.” 

Our research finds that measuring the percentage of new hires who are women is also associated with higher percentages of senior management roles held by women. Ngozi Ogwo, CEO at Grant Thornton Nigeria discussed the importance of this: “We're becoming very intentional about our recruitment processes, even having percentages of male and female candidates specified. We also ensure high levels of female participation in Grant Thornton International leadership programmes.” 

To ensure that measures and progress are discussed and challenged, it’s essential that businesses have a psychologically safe environment. Isabel Perea, Audit partner, Grant Thornton Spain, sees this as one of the key drivers of change: “Leadership is now much closer to the different diversity issues. This is evident in the creation of psychologically safer environments, where different collaborators feel able to share their views and problems more assiduously.”

Ngozi Ogwo, CEO at Grant Thornton Nigeria, outlines the difference that a psychologically safe environment can have on employees: “Following female leadership calls and conferences, I’ve seen women become more empowered and determined. Hearing from each other gives them greater permission to be their authentic selves.” 

A psychologically safe environment can lead to important behaviour change. By challenging what a ‘traditional’ leadership model looks like, and the expectations to conform, creating a psychologically safe environment can lead to women being their true, authentic self while in leadership roles. In turn, this will allow women to feel more confident speaking up, sharing views, and challenging decisions.   

Walking the path: Set a clear and focused DE&I strategy

Businesses have a clear opportunity to take actionable, tangible steps, and follow our three pathways to accelerate towards parity:

Further insight can be found on these pathways by clicking the links below or by downloading the full report below.

< Leading the way

Back to the office, a backwards step? >

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Pathways to parity

Download the full report to discover more of our insights


v. - The cost of gender inequality