All our programmes are based on a holistic understanding of current academic and economic research. A growing body of evidence, most recently from the IMF (2016) and McKinsey (2017), shows the critical importance of gender diversity to business success. Yet recent reports have shown that there is much further to go.

Our research, Women Count, confirms this correlation that diversity improves business outcomes yet the number of women in senior roles remains low.

More women in senior roles leads to better business outcomes

  • The IMF found that the more women in senior managerial positions and in corporate boards, the more profitable firms are. Adding one more woman in senior management or on a corporate board, while keeping the size of the board unchanged, is associated with 8 to 13 basis points higher return on assets1.
  • McKinsey’s ‘Women Matter’ report, based on ten years of research, also found a difference in return on equity of 47% between global companies with the most women on their executive committees and those with none, and a 55% difference in operating results2. Furthermore, the sweet spot, shown in other research by McKinsey, found those with three or more women in senior management had higher firm performance, on average, than teams with no women3.
  • Grant Thornton estimates the impact of moving to mixed boards on the FTSE 350 could boost GDP in the UK by around 2.5%4.
  • The Pipeline stated in ‘Women Count, 2017’ found that profit margins were almost double in FTSE 350 companies with at least 25% females on their Executive Committee compared to those with none5.
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The number of women in top jobs remains low

The Hampton-Alexander Review set out the following voluntary recommendations6:

  • FTSE 350 companies should aim for a minimum of 33% women’s representation on their Boards by 2020.
  • FTSE 100 companies should aim for a minimum of 33% women’s representation across their Executive Committee and in the Direct Reports to the Executive Committee by 2020.
  • FTSE 350 companies should voluntarily publish details of the number of women on the Executive Committee and in the Direct Reports to the Executive Committee on an annual basis.

Research demonstrating key interventions that improve gender diversity

Champion Sponsorship

  • Harvard Business Review looked at why women over-mentored but under-sponsored7 and confirmed in a more detailed research report that a sponsor confers a statistical career benefit, of anywhere from 22% to 30%8.

Strong Role Models

  • Nearly half of female executives feel a lack of role models hold them back9 and lack of role models reduces women’s willingness to go for promotion.

Exceptional Leadership Development

  • Boston Consulting Group found that senior managers tend to focus on recruiting more women rather than developing and promoting women already in the pipeline which had a far greater impact10.

Clear Feedback

  • For women to achieve senior roles, it is essential open and honest conversations happen across the workplace as women often miss out on direct feedback11.

Address the ‘Attainment Trap’

  • Men are promoted for potential and women for attainment, only when this is fully understood do behaviours change12.

Recognise Risk Aversion

  • Organisations are unconsciously risk averse to promoting women into senior roles. To resolve his, leaders need to recognise this and address it13.
A group of women on the side of a table focusing

Footnotes and useful links

1 IMF: Female Potential in Europe, 2016

McKinsey, Women Matter: ten years of insight on gender diversity, 2017

3 McKinsey (various):The Power of Parity, 2015; Women Matter, 2007; McKinsey: Women Matter, 2016

4 Grant Thornton: Women in Business, 2015

The Pipeline: Women Count, 2017

6 Hampton-Alexander Review: FTSE Women Leaders, 2017

HBR: Why Men Still get More Promotions Than Women, 2010

8 HBR: The Sponsor Effect

Catalyst 2004:

10 Boston Consulting Group, 2017

11 Sylvia Ann Hewlett: Executive Presence – The Missing Link Between Merit, 2014; McKinsey and Lean In: Women in the Workplace 2016

12 The Sunday Times: Why are men more like to be promoted than women, 2018

13 Chief Executive Women & Male Champions of Change: In the Eye of the Beholder – Avoiding the Merit Trap, 2016

Selected Further Reading

The Cult of the Leader, Professor Chris Bones, 2011, Wiley

The Social Animal, David Brooks, 2012, Random House

The Psychology of Influence, Professor Robert Caldini, 1993, William Morrow

Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin, 2005, Simon & Schuster

Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, 2011, Macmillan

The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson, 2011, Pan Macmillan

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, 2013, Random House