Empowering Women in Corporate Leadership: A Catalyst for Sustainable Change on International Women’s Day

At the ACi we are proud our membership of women in higher decision-making roles in corporate investigations and litigation has increased by 9% in the last 4 years, making up nearly 20% of our membership overall. Nevertheless, there are still strides to be made in advancing women’s’ positionality in the workplace. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, policies fostering corporate gender diversity, including targets and quotas for women on boards, senior management and executive positions are recognized as crucial initiatives. The recent decision by S&P Global investors to consider gender diversity in evaluating ESG opportunities and risks reflects a positive shift, indicating external pressures for increased female representation in senior roles.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, it is essential to reflect on the strides made in empowering women in corporate decision-making roles. Despite progress, the journey toward gender equality is ongoing. This article explores the significance of women’s representation in these positions and its profound impact on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) performance.

A recent article from The Guardian reported a 6% increase in female CEOs in FTSE 350 companies from 2011 to 2024. While this reflects some progress, only 10 out of FTSE 100 CEOs are women. A 2023 report by firm, McKinsey on women in the workplace revealed women in senior management positions are leaving the workforce at a higher rate than men. This illustrates the challenges to sustaining women in high level decision-making roles in the corporate workplace reflected in the roughly 60-40% gender disparity in typical company managerial positions. While roles such as finance directors and chief information officers are emerging as pathways to CEO positions, with a notable increase in women serving on executive committees, there still remains the challenge to maintaining the positive structural organisational changes that will foster an increasing presence of women in high decision-making roles in the corporate world.

In April 2022 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) set positive diversity targets for listed companies, were women should comprise 40% of company boards and companies should have at least one women in a senior board position. Business Secretary, Kemi Badenoch applauds FTSE 350 companies for surpassing this target, emphasizing the organic nature of this change. The focus now is on sustaining this momentum to achieve equitable leadership which will be reviewed by the FCA in 2025.

Numerous studies, including the 2021 IFC Corporate Governance Report, emphasize the positive correlation between women in leadership roles and enhanced ESG performance. Celebrating the critical mass of around 30% women on company boards, key findings include improved environmental practices, enhanced social performance, and a commitment to ethical conduct.

Studies, such as “Women leaders and Corporate Social Performance,” underscore the importance of achieving a critical mass of women in leadership positions to drive positive ESG change. The theme of 2024’s International Women’s Day #Inspiringinclusion emphasizes the role of women in shaping sustainable corporate practices.

On International Women’s Day, as we celebrate the increasing representation of women in corporate decision-making roles, we recognize not only the strides toward gender equality but also the profound impact on ESG and CSR performance. Companies are encouraged to adopt and implement policies that champion gender diversity, acknowledging the invaluable perspectives and experiences that women bring to board decision-making processes. Empowering women in leadership positions is not just a symbol of equality but a catalyst for sustainable and positive change. This International Women’s Day, let us commit to fostering a corporate landscape where women thrive, contributing to a more inclusive and sustainable future.