More than 50 major retailers, including The Disney Store, John Lewis, Argos, and The Very Group have signed to a new charter to take ‘decisive action’ to improve their diversity and inclusion practices.
It follows research from the British Retail Consortium that discovered that seven out of ten (around 69 per cent) of retail firms have top three board positions – chair, chief executive, and chief financial officer – all filled by men.
The same research found that more than one in five retailers have no women at all on their Boards, while 15 per cent have no women on their executive committees. Only 9.6 per cent of the industry’s CEOs are women, and only 4.3 per cent of the sector’s Chairs are women.
This is despite the matter that 58 per cent of the retail workforce is made up of women.
Compiled by the BRC in collaboration with PwC and MBS Group, the research also found that retail ‘has very few black or ethnic minority leaders,’ highlighting that 4.5 per cent of Boards, 5.8 per cent of Executive Committees, and six per cent of Direct Reports to Boards are from an ethnic minority background.
Diversity and inclusion has been highlighted as a priority by some 84 per cent of retailers, but only half or retail employees agree that D&I is sufficiently high up their employers’ agenda.
The likes of Sainsbury’s, Asda, LIDL, and Boots have now joined a group of more than 50 retailers to have signed the charter, pledging to improve their diversity and inclusion practices on all grounds.
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retail revolves around the customer, and to serve the needs of a diverse country, we need a diversity of ideas, experiences and backgrounds across our businesses.
“Five years ago, the BRC set out a vision for Better Jobs and aspired for retail to be a Diversity and Inclusion leader. The data collected by PwC and The MBS Group in our Diversity and Inclusion in retail report shows there is so much more to be done if we are to reach this goal.
“Nonetheless, I am confident about the road ahead. The first step to achieving change is acknowledgement and understanding of where the challenges lie. Now, we must act. I am proud to see so many retailers pledge to better their businesses and create equal opportunities for all and I am excited to see what the future holds once greater diversity and inclusion is achieved.”
Elliott Goldstein, managing partner at The MBS Group, added: “Retail leadership continues to be unrepresentative of the UK population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability and social mobility.
“Given that women make up 64.3 per cent of the retail workforce, and are responsible for up to 80 per cent of purchasing decisions, it should not be the case in 2021 that women are under-represented at all leadership levels – including in the top role, where under 10 per cent of CEOs are women.
“One in five retailers still have all male boards, and 15 per cent of Executive Committees have no women. Likewise, the level of ethnic minority representation amongst the industry’s leaders falls well short compared to the wider population; our research shows that 81 per cent of the largest retailers have all white boards – and 68 per cent have no ethnic minority leadership on their Executive Committees.
“Whilst undoubtedly significant change has been driven in the last decade, there is still a long way to go.”