Knowledge Center

Women in Management


The Percentage of Women in Senior Roles Is Declining Globally1

Women hold under a quarter (24%) of senior roles across the world in 2018, a decrease from 25% in 2017.2

  • However in 2018, 75% of businesses have at least one woman in senior management, compared to 66% in 2017.3
  • On the other hand, one quarter (25%) of global businesses have no women in senior management roles.4

The industries most lacking women among hires for leadership roles in 2017 include manufacturing, energy and mining, software and IT services, finance, real estate, corporate services, and legal.5

The “Glass Ceiling” Is Still an Invisible Barrier Preventing Women from Reaching the Top6

Men may still be viewed as default business leaders, affirming the “think manager, think male” mindset.7

  • Senior managers often apply gender stereotypes to leadership—women “take care,” men “take charge.”8

In some instances, women face the “glass cliff,” in which they are appointed to leadership positions in times of economic crisis, limiting their chances of success.9

In Australia, Men Dominate Senior Levels of Management10

In 2016–2017, women represented just over a third (38.4%) of all managers in Australia.11

  • Women are less likely to reach the top levels of management. In 2016–2017, women accounted for:12
    • 41.9% of other (i.e., non-senior) managers13
    • 34.9% of senior managers
    • 30.4% of other executives/general managers
    • 29.7% of key management personnel14
    • 16.5% of CEOs/Heads of Business
Nearly Half of Indian Women Leave the Workforce Between Junior and Middle Management Levels15

In 2018, women hold only 20% of all senior roles in India.16

In 2017, women held only 7% of senior management (CEO/Managing Director) roles.17

Japan Has Set Targets for Increasing Women in Leadership Positions by 202018

As of 2016, in private corporations, women accounted for:19

  • 18.6% of section chiefs
  • 10.3% of directors

In 2018, just 5% of senior roles were held by women.20


The Government Cabinet Is at Parity, but Businesses Are Not21

In Canada, women accounted for slightly more than a third (34.6%) of all managers, but only 28.9% of senior managers, in 2017.22

Women made up just 51 (9.4%) of the 540 C-level executives among Canada’s 100 largest publicly traded corporations in 2017.23


Eastern Europe Leads the World in Gender-Diverse Leadership24

According to Grant Thornton’s 2018 rankings, 87% of Eastern European businesses reported having at least one woman in senior management, and 36% of businesses’ senior roles are held by women.25

In the European Union, 73% of businesses reported having at least one woman in senior management and 27% of businesses’ senior roles are held by women.26

  • France saw a three-year high of businesses with at least one senior woman at 79%, as well as a three-year high of businesses’ senior roles being held by women at 33%.27
  • The United Kingdom reported their highest percentage of businesses with at least one woman in senior management at 75%, with 22% of businesses’ senior roles being held by women.28

Among the largest publicly listed companies in the European Union (EU-28) in 2017, only 15.8% of executives and 5.5% of CEOs were women.29

Women’s Representation in European Governments Declined in 201730

Since 2004, women’s representation has increased in parliaments (by about 0.6% per year) and among senior ministers in governments (by 0.5% per year). However, the share of women in parliaments and governments decreased in 2017 to 29.3% (in parliaments) and 27.7% (in governments).31

Among the EU-28 national parliaments in 2018, over a quarter of members of both the single or lower houses (30.0%) and the upper houses (28.9%) were women.32

United States

There Are Fewer Women in Leadership Positions Than There Are Men Named John33

In the United States, women were nearly half (46.9%) of the labor force,34 but only slightly over a third (39.8%) of managers in 2017.35

  • White women held almost a third of all management positions at 32.5%, followed by Latinas at 4.1%, Black women at 3.8%, and Asian women at just 2.4%.36
  • Women made up the highest share of managers in human resources (70.8%) occupations and social and community services (70.2%).37

The percentage of US businesses with at least one woman in senior management jumped from 69% in 2017 to 81% in 2018, but the percentage of senior roles held by women decreased from 23% to 21%.38

In S&P 500 Companies, the Higher Up the Corporate Ladder, the Fewer the Women39

Additional Resources

Catalyst, The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline (2007-2017).

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women on Corporate Boards Globally.

Catalyst, Women CEOs of the S&P 500.

Julia Dawson, Richard Kersley, and Stefano Natella, The CS Gender 3000: The Reward for Change (Credit Suisse Research Institute, 2016).

Georges Desvaux, Sandrine Devillard, Eric Labaye, Sandra Sancier-Sultan, Cécile Kossoff, and Alix de Zelicourt,Women Matter: Time To Accelerate: Ten Years of Insights Into Gender Diversity (McKinsey & Company, October 2017).

International Labour Organization, Women in Business and Management: Gaining Momentum: Global Report (2015).

Mercer, When Women Thrive, Businesses Thrive (2016).

Rachel Thomas, Marianne Cooper, Ellen Konar, Megan Rooney, Ashley Finch, Lareina Yee, Alexis Krivkovich, Irina Starikova, Kelsey Robinson, and Rachel Valentino, Women in the Workplace 2017 (McKinsey & Company and Lean In, 2017).

How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Management (July 30, 2018).