The number of women hired into leadership is increasing, but by less than 1% a year
International Women’s Day (IWD) is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the achievements of women globally and to refocus our attention on the urgent need for gender parity, including in the workplace.
Though the benefits of a diverse workforce are clearly evident, and as we see more women entering the global workforce, alarmingly women still make up less than a third of leadership positions globally. On this IWD, we’ll be shining a spotlight on women representation in leadership in EMEA and LATAM and breaking down the data by industry and seniority, including a deep dive into the Tech industry and emergent AI sector, and demonstrating bias in remote working. We’ll be focusing our insights on markets in EMEA and LATAM, including France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Brazil and Mexico.
Women remain underrepresented in leadership roles, on average 29% in the EMEA and LATAM countries analysed, although they constitute 41% of the workforce. France (34%) and Sweden (37%) rank highest in leadership representation, whilst the United Arab Emirates (20%), Germany (23%) and the Netherlands (26%) notably lag behind the average. Despite improvements in leadership hires since 2016, we’re seeing marginal gains across the board - on average a 5.7% increase, in part due to a stagnation during the pandemic. This translates to less than a 1% increase per year in leadership hires in EMEA and LATAM. Promoting a diverse workforce may be at the forefront of many company culture initiatives, but gender biases are still impacting women entering senior leadership roles.
This inequity is most prominent at the top of the career ladder, where women make up on average just 24% of C-suite roles in EMEA and LATAM. Considering 42% of entry level positions are held by women in these countries, this is a steep reduction.
Even though we see several industries emerge with over 40% representation at the C-suite level, including the Hospitals and Health Care sector in Ireland (40%), the Netherlands (43%), Sweden (42%) and the United Kingdom (42%), we still consider this an underrepresentation as women make up 74% of entry level positions in these countries and in this sector. Indeed, in other industries where women are overrepresented in entry level roles like Education, 60% on average in EMEA and LATAM, we still see representation almost halved in the C-suite (35% on average). In all industries the trend shows representation plummeting as workers move through promotion to senior positions, even from a high starting point.
And it’s not just in the C-suite - focusing on senior leaders (i.e., Director positions and above), women are underrepresented in all industries examined when compared to their corresponding share of the workforce. We see the highest share of women senior leaders in the Consumer Services (40% on average in EMEA and LATAM), Hospitals and Health Care (42%), Education (43%) and Government Administration (40%) industries. In particular, the Education industry in Brazil (42%), France (44%), Ireland (45%), Italy (45%), Mexico (40%), the Netherlands (45%), Sweden (52%) and the United Kingdom (46%) all have above 40% representation.
In Technology, Information and Media, we’re facing significant gaps. 25% of senior leader roles are held by women, compared to women’s 35% share of the total workforce in EMEA and LATAM. This is a sector that is underrepresented at all seniority levels, with women making up 37% of entry roles, filtering down to a 17% share of C-suite positions. We can see women are lacking both senior representation and access to the sector, which is often seen with industries offering higher paid positions, worsening the existing economic gap between men and women.
An emerging field in this sector is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which will see huge growth in the coming years, and has the potential to exacerbate women underrepresentation in Tech. In 2022, women made up 29% of the AI workforce on average in EMEA and LATAM, below the average for Technology, Information and Media (35%). Italy alone was above the Tech average, 37% in 2022, with Germany (23%), Brazil (25%), and the United Arab Emirates (27%) trailing the most. However, we have seen women’s representation increase in AI in recent years, albeit from a low base, up 17% on average since 2016.
If we are to see a continuation of women entering the AI sector, the focus should be on skilling and upskilling. A skills-first approach to hiring could improve diversity in AI and utilise a largely untapped pool of women with relevant skills. LinkedIn data shows that when hiring for jobs where women are underrepresented, like in the AI sector, if companies prioritised skills instead of previous job titles, the talent pool would grow 24% more for women compared to men.
In Germany, 14% of engineering team leads are women, despite women making up 35% of the talent pool with relevant skills for this role. If hiring managers moved to a skills-first approach when assessing candidates for this role, the overall talent pool for women would increase by 10x, compared to a 3x increase for men. When expanding this to include all jobs where women are underrepresented, we see that in Germany the talent pool of women increases 30% more compared to men. Mexico (45%), Sweden and Brazil (41%) also see some of the largest benefits in gender diversity from moving to a skills-first approach, although all countries analysed in EMEA and LATAM show an improvement, including the United Kingdom (27%), Spain (25%), the Netherlands (24%), Italy (23%), France (22%), Ireland (20%), and the United Arab Emirates (13%).
Along with a transition to skills-first hiring, flexibility will be key to improving women representation, in particular access to remote positions. Applications by women to remote roles have been increasing year over year on average in EMEA and LATAM. In 2022, women applied to 11% more remote roles than men in Germany, 4% in Ireland, 9% in the United Arab Emirates, and 19% in Mexico. As companies row back on flexibility, and as the share of remote roles continues to drop, for the ninth consecutive month in the EMEA region as a whole, competition is becoming fierce for remote roles.
Women have made gains in recent years in leadership representation, entry into the workforce, and in the Tech and AI sectors, however, they remain underrepresented in the EMEA and LATAM workforce, and are an untapped talent pool across many industries. Our analysis showcases the need to prioritise initiatives that tackle discrimination and promote diversity, including addressing the gender disparity in hiring by promoting a skills-first approach, encouraging flexibility in the work environment, and creating opportunities for women to breakthrough into leadership positions.