Kingfisher’s ground-breaking decision to make its top team majority female has prompted calls for other retailers to do more to tackle gender imbalance in senior positions.
Retailers are regarded as having more senior female representation compared with other FTSE100 companies. But many believe the industry could do more to reflect its high proportion of female customers.
The decision by Kingfisher – which is believed to be one of the first big retail groups to appoint a majority female board – is expected to put pressure on other retailers to act on what is becoming a thorny issue.
Kingfisher chief executive Véronique Laury said the make up of its board reflected the fact that half its customers were women and three quarters of home improvement decisions were made by them.
“It is a conscious decision to reflect what our business is about,” she said. “Diversity has always been very important for Kingfisher and it will be like that going forward.”
Still a job to do
However, Laury said it still had a job to do at senior level and below. “Overall in our stores we have more males than females facing the customer and we will move to more of a balance,” she said.
Part of Lawson’s responsibility will be to make sure Kingfisher has “the right balance” in its stores.
The retailer’s workforce is split between 40% women and 60% men, while its senior management is just one quarter female.
Maxine Benson, co-founder of Everywoman, of which Specsavers founder Dame Mary Perkins is a patron, told Retail Week there’s still “a lot of work to be done” on gender imbalance in retail and other sectors.
“One of the challenges is keeping the focus on the pipeline of talent,” she said. “You also need accessible role models in these positions.”
Retail headhunter Sally Elliott of Korn Ferry welcomed Kingfisher’s move, adding: “Women bring a different style and approach to understanding the customer and to ensuring there is constructive challenge and debate at the top of the organisation, ultimately leading to improved commercial performance for companies and their shareholders.”
Denise Wilson, chief executive of the government-commissioned Davies review of women on boards, said there was still “leaders and laggards” in the retail sector on the issue. “The challenge is to get women to the top and having leaders who understand the value of a diverse board.” The Davies review found in March that women make up 23.5% of directors on boards of FTSE100 firms.