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In my view

Women in business

The diversity opportunity

Francesca Lagerberg is our Global leader for network capabilities, concentrating on growing Grant Thornton member firms all around the world. She has been the sponsor of women in leadership at Grant Thornton for the last four years – a passion driven by a wider belief that diversity in all forms, of which gender is included, is vital to overall business success.

“I remember having a female role model very early on in my accounting career. One of my managers, Ellie, was not only intelligent and more technically adept than almost anyone around her, but she brought an alternative perspective to our very male-dominated group. She saw things from a different angle. Long before it was common practice, she showed me that putting yourself in the shoes of your client helps you to see a situation from both sides, and that accounting isn’t just about the numbers, it’s also about communication and empathy – advice that still guides my work to this day.

Everyone brings their unique self to work and the very best teams I have had the privilege to work in, have recognised that to be successful you need a multitude of thinking styles, tone and culture. This takes you out of ‘group think’ and enables the team to challenge itself to bring the very best to the project. When it comes to gender, it's the complementary contrast of perspectives that leads to the most successful outcomes.

Over the last decade, Grant Thornton has been tracking gender issues at a senior board level as part of the wider question of what makes a business be more successful. We have chosen gender as a focal point because quality data is easy to gather and the glacial pace of change in terms of women taking up senior leadership roles raises complex and interesting questions for all enterprises.

Our research shows that only around a quarter of businesses have women in any senior position. The interviews we conducted with business leaders around the world also suggest that the businesses creating real change are those whose policies and practices are rooted in a genuine conviction of the benefits of diversity. Other work over the last few years has also highlighted how diverse boards outperformed the market and that effective risk-management requires diversity at the table. There are strong commercial drivers for change.

A mixed gender team not only brings a broader range of input, creativity and consideration to strategic issues, it also puts the team in a position of strength by encouraging people to leverage their differences in positive ways.

"We owe it to the next generation to not leave them fighting the same battles."

We live in an amazing time of change. If a business is going to thrive, it needs to be agile in the market to spot opportunities and react to challenges. Diversity of thinking is crucial to help achieve this. I like to think that there’s a spark of hope for change underway, but the rate of change remains slow. In fact, there are a few signs of fatigue around the issue as if putting in a programme is enough to make change happen.

We owe it to the next generation to not leave them fighting the same battles. My daughter is currently in her late teens. Assuming she keeps studying, and hopefully takes time to travel, she will probably be working within the next decade. I would love her to never see the need for events like international women’s day, because every day would be a day to celebrate a more diverse and inclusive working environment. To achieve that, we need to be driving change and building for the future, now.” 

More on diversity in business

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