Wednesday 8 March 2017 12:01 am

The number of UK senior business roles held by women has fallen, says global study by Grant Thornton

Despite a series of calls and reviews to help boost the number of women in business and the boardroom, the proportion of senior business roles held by women in the UK has fallen to 19 per cent.

According to Grant Thornton's annual survey of 5,500 businesses across 36 economies, there has been a slow state of progress, with 2017's figure a two per cent drop from the 21 per cent held last year.

When its first study was conducted in 2004, the proportion of senior business roles held by women was 18 per cent.

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The percentage of UK firms with no women in senior management has also risen from 36 per cent to 41 per cent this year. 

Globally, the proportion of senior roles held by women has hit a high of 25 per cent, though that is still a slow increase, edging up just one per cent since last year.

The countries with the best figures were Russia with 47 per cent, Indonesia with 46 per cent and Estonia with 40 per cent. The UK had the fifth lowest proportion of women in senior business roles, while Japan had the lowest at seven per cent.

Sacha Romanovitch, chief executive at Grant Thornton, said improvement was moving at "a painfully slow rate".

She said:

The diversity agenda is all about creating an environment that is conducive to all and what women see of leadership isn’t always that attractive. To this end we need to see a fundamental shift in what leadership looks like and what is expected of people in senior leadership positions.

Businesses need to re-balance what leadership is to make it attractive to future leaders who expect the role to be interesting, meaningful, flexible and with reasonable reward too.

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Grant Thornton also analysed how men and women see risks and opportunity. It found that men were more likely to see risk when considering issues affecting economic and political change, both nationally and internationally. The research also showed that women in the UK were more likely to consider if the new risk represents an opportunity than men.