A closer look at global progress

While this year we saw an increase in the percentage of senior management roles held by women, on a global level, there are some significant regional and country variations.  

Country changes

At a country level, the research reveals how cultural and legislative changes have aided progress to gender parity. 18 countries have been measured consistently over the last 20 years. All have seen progress, although some more than others.

Dan Holland, Audit partner and Head of ED&I at Grant Thornton Ireland, explained how the recently introduced requirement[iii] for companies in Ireland to disclose their gender pay gap has prompted a wider cultural shift: “We're only in year two of the gender pay gap reporting. In year one, companies were focused on just meeting the legal requirement. In year two, it became much more about demonstrating that this was an issue your company was taking seriously and was focused on addressing with a clear strategy to achieve cultural change.”

Since the requirement was introduced in 2021, the percentage of senior management positions held by women in Ireland has increased from 33% to 36%, although the full impact of the new requirement remains to be seen. 

One of the countries that has seen the most significant progress is India, rising from 12% of senior management positions held by women in 2004 to 34% in 2024 – above the global average.

Pallavi Joshi Bakhru, Partner and India-UK corridor leader at Grant Thornton Bharat, highlighted that more women are receiving an education and getting into the workforce: “The fact is that you now have more women studying, who are more educated and more willing to work. This has been a significant cultural change.”

Spain has also seen a significant rise from 14% in 2004, to 40% in 2024. Joan Vall, Audit partner, Grant Thornton Spain believes this is down to a combination of business action and political pressure: “Programmes have been set up by businesses to improve the managerial skills of women. There has also been political pressure: the Spanish government announced a law that will oblige Spanish companies to reach 40% of women in management positions within three years.”

Regional differences

Latin America has the highest percentage of senior management positions held by women, at 36% overall (although this is based on the performance of just two countries – Brazil and Argentina). EMEA, North America, and the EU outperform the global benchmark of 33.5% of senior management position held by women.

In Latin America, there has been a steady and active trend of government action to promote women in work. There was a push for legislation in Argentina in 2018 which saw The Gender Equality Bill presented before the Senate and House, which addressed gender equality at work with changes involving salary, benefits, work life balance, maternity and childcare.[iv]

However, beneath the surface, there’s evidence that these efforts have not led to equal progress among every firm in Latin America. 12% of businesses have no senior management roles held by women, whereas 17% only have one.

There’s a similar story in the EU, with 9% of businesses having no senior management roles held by women and 17% only having one. 

Overall, however, the regional picture reveals where the trend of fewer female CEOs has occurred. There has been a 15pp drop in CEOs who are women in the United States, a 14pp drop in China and an 8pp drop in the UK between 2023 and 2024. 

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

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iii. gov.ie - What is the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021? - 07.06.22
iv. consilium.europa.eu - Gender pay gap: Council adopts new rules on pay transparency - 24.04.23