Diminishing Diversity: Proportion of Women in Senior Leadership Falls to 32%

By: GWL Team | Friday, 23 June 2023

Driving diversity, creativity, and inclusive decision-making are women in leadership. Their presence and contributions offer distinctive viewpoints and aid in challenging conventional beliefs, resulting in more harmonious and efficient leadership teams.

Globally, women occupied 29.9% of senior executive roles, according to a Catalyst analysis from 2021. According to Catalyst, women held 21.2% of the board seats in Fortune 500 businesses in the United States in 2020. Globally, women occupied around 30% of university leadership positions in higher education, according to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021.

In recent years, organisations all over the world have made the promotion of women in leadership roles a top priority.

Women's leadership hires have decreased according to LinkedIn data

However, reports suggest a decline in the hiring of women for senior positions. This drop in gender diversity at the top raises important concerns about the effectiveness of initiatives to advance gender equality as well as the continuing obstacles to obtaining equal representation in leadership positions.

The economic recession has caused a halt in women's ascent into leadership roles, returning to levels reminiscent of 2021, according to new statistics from LinkedIn.

This decline is detrimental to gender equality and shows that society has forgotten the lessons that should have been gained from the epidemic.

The World Economic Forum's 2023 Global Gender Gap Report has data from LinkedIn that shows that women's hiring into leadership positions has been improving, albeit slowly, by roughly 1% yearly for almost eight years. The epidemic, however, had a negative influence on this advancement, with women suffering the most from the financial shocks.

Proportion of Women in Senior Leadership Falls to 32%

The proportion of women in senior leadership fell to a pitiful 32% in the first quarter of 2023, regressing to levels recorded in 2020 during the height of the epidemic. Alarmingly, sectors including consumer services, healthcare, and real estate have seen the worst declines in the number of women in executive roles. Alongside these declines, there has also been a decline in the employment of women for senior positions, notably in the fields of professional services and technology, information, and media.

Female Representation Declines as Corporate Ladder Climbs

The depressing fall is further highlighted by the "Drop to the Top" phenomenon, which shows that as one climbs the corporate ladder, female representation declines. Women hold around half of all entry-level jobs worldwide, but just 25% of C-Suite positions. Only 12% of C-Suite jobs are held by women, particularly in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) industries.

The number of women being hired into senior leadership roles has dropped to 32%, the same low bar as was established during the pandemic in 2020, according to Sue Duke, head of global public policy at LinkedIn. As the world continues to endure economic instability, Duke stated, "This makes for dismal reading, and women are once again feeling the brunt of labour market shocks. In the past year, major economies including America, Brazil, Britain, and India have seen a fall in the representation of women in addition to a loss of momentum.”

In Duke's words, "Economic uncertainty is not going away, so if we want to reverse the current trend before it gets any worse, we must have a systemic response to address the widening gender gap impacting women's careers and livelihoods."

There is an urgent need for systemic reform given the gravity of the problem. But how exactly?

In a conversation, Nir Bashan, host of McGraw Hill's Coffee Break and author of The Creator Mindset, said: "Just getting creative about how we choose our language for a job post can yield applications from women who would otherwise not apply simply by moving from a traditional list of credentials and bullet points to more skill-based attributes."

Mentorship and Training Programs for Women in Male-Dominated Sectors

More inclusive hiring may be promoted by eliminating bias from job descriptions and ensuring that women are represented on interview panels. However, recruiting is only the start. It is essential for women entering sectors with a male predominance, like STEM, and those in early managerial jobs to get ongoing assistance through mentorship and training programmes.

Duke continued, "There are doable steps that firms and governments can take to support women in achieving their full potential, particularly in senior leadership roles. The use of inclusive recruiting practises, the presence of women in high-level positions, and chances for women to upskill and advance their careers, particularly in pre- and middle-management roles, can all be beneficial. To make sure companies in all industries honour their obligations to support women in the workplace and to develop an inclusive culture, we need to adopt these best practises.

Clearly, the decline in the employment of women for senior positions is a wake-up call. It serves as a warning that change may be brittle and quickly undone if it is not properly maintained. After all, it is our job as a society to invest in the potential of women and to empower them. This is not only a moral need; it is also a practical one.

We must thus make decisions when we find ourselves at a crossroads in order to create a more diverse and resilient future. If we don't, we run the risk of not just rolling back progress on gender equality but also impeding the creativity and expansion that comes from diverse leadership.