Female business leaders of the world united in optimism
Irish businesswomen are confident about the future and see disruption as an opportunity
KPMG’s first Global Female Leaders (GFL) study shows that female business leaders, including those in Ireland, are highly focused on the challenges of the digital age. Photograph: iStock
A new survey from KPMG has found that Irish female business leaders embrace disruption and are confident about future growth, with 83 per cent of them viewing technological disruption as more of an opportunity than a threat. In addition, 89 per cent are confident about future growth potential for their business. On the other hand, 59 per cent believe that growth over the next three years will be harder-earned than ever before.
These were some of the results from KPMG’s first Global Female Leaders (GFLs) study which shows that female business leaders, including those in Ireland, are highly focused on the challenges of the digital age, with almost half of Irish female business leaders (47 per cent) believing their company to be a disruptor of their sector, rather than being disrupted by competitors. They are also optimistic about revenue growth and headcount growth but cautious on the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs.
The survey was carried out online in April 2018 and covered 699 global female leaders from 14 industry sectors in 42 countries including Ireland. More than one-third (37 per cent) of the respondents come from companies that have more than $500 million in annual revenue.
“The survey shows that Irish female business leaders, in keeping with their CEO peers worldwide, are prioritising new technologies and the business impact of these technologies,” says Shaun Murphy, managing partner of KPMG in Ireland. “They are both digitally and data focused and favour increased usage of data analysis in their companies. They are also realistic about growth prospects for their companies and are committed to driving transformation processes.”
The results in relation to growth expectations are particularly encouraging, with 88 per cent of female business leaders in Ireland expecting revenue growth over the next three years. Forty-five per cent of them see organic growth as the most important component of this increase.
This should translate into increased employment, with a clear majority (59 per cent) of Irish respondents expecting headcount growth in the next three years. This is broadly similar to the global response, where 62 per cent expect employment growth.
Respondents were much more cautious when it came to the impact of artificial intelligence on employment. Only 50 per cent of Irish respondents and 47 per cent of global respondents believe it will create more jobs than it will eliminate.
Irish female leaders place a high value on digitalisation and technology but are concerned about team capabilities, the survey found.
Almost four in five (79 per cent) of Irish respondents see the need to improve innovation processes and execution over the next three years. That belief was even more pronounced globally, where 93 per cent of respondents saw a need for improvement. Almost nine in 10 (88 per cent) Irish respondents will increase usage of predictive data models and analytics compared with 77 per cent worldwide.
Boards are realistic in relation to digital transformation, but there may be a need to bolster leadership teams to take on the challenges which lie ahead. Just 18 per cent of Irish female business leaders think that their board of directors has an unreasonable expectation regarding return on investment related to digital transformation projects, but less than two-thirds (59 per cent) are confident that the existing leadership team is fully equipped to oversee the radical transformation that they believe their business needs to undergo.
“Digital transformation offers significant opportunities but is challenging business leaders to ensure they have the right people and resources in place,” Murphy says. “Leaders need to possess the skills and the conviction to lead their companies through these disruptive times.”
Possibly the most telling result of all, however, was the unanimous agreement on the need for more active measures to promote gender equality at senior levels. “Our survey respondents are highly successful business leaders, but they still see the need for accelerators to support gender equality,” says Murphy. “One hundred percent of Irish female leaders and 83 per cent of their global counterparts see enablement programmes for women as a means of growing the pool of talented senior females in business.”