Businesses around the world have improved female representation in leadership roles in the past year, with three-quarters now having at least one woman on the senior management team.
That compares to the 66 per cent recorded in 2017.
However, the proportion of the team made up of women has edged back from 25 per cent to 24 per cent, according to Grant Thornton's annual women in business report, out today.
Globally, the progress on the number of firms with women in senior management has primarily been propelled by emerging economies like Africa and Eastern Europe, while Latin America recorded the biggest rise - from 52 per cent to 65 per cent. The rise within the EU was also marked though, from 64 per cent to 73 per cent.
Sacha Romanovitch, chief executive at Grant Thornton, said:
While it’s hugely positive that women are in senior roles at more businesses, it’s disappointing that they are being spread so thinly. Business needs to focus on the vital role leadership and culture can play in creating real progress in gender balance.
We have learnt that initiatives to fix women into the existing way business operates miss the real opportunity of diversity in the workplace. When we focus on creating inclusive environments based around shared purpose and collaboration we start to see a shift.
It comes as separate research by PwC has found nearly half of new mothers feel overlooked for promotions and special projects on their return to work, with 44 per cent of women concerned about the impact starting a family will have on their career.
The report, surveying over 3,600 professionals, found a perception of a motherhood and flexibility penalty still exists in the workplace. Over a third of women said they felt taking advantage of flexibility programmes has negative career consequences.
Laura Hinton, UK head of people at PwC, said:
Flexibility can be a powerful tool for helping people to achieve their career goals and should be encouraged for all employees across an organisation, not just seen as a motherhood issue.
Having the right policies in place is not enough though - creating the right culture is vital for people to feel empowered to take advantage of them. This includes assessing people on their outputs, not time in the office, and having role models at all levels of the business who work flexibly.
The report also found that more women are recognising the need for speaking up to secure results at work, with over half actively pursuing and negotiating promotions and pay rises. Of the 27 per cent who had been promoted during the past two years, 63 per cent had negotiated for a promotion.