Every year that I put together the Retail Week Power List, I wait for the accusations of sexism. “Where are all the women?” come the cries. I agree: where are all the women?
This list is not designed to create a utopian view of where we would like power to sit in the retail industry. It reflects where it actually sits now. Unfortunately there is still a gender gap at the top of retail.
Looking at the top 50 UK retailers by sales, only four – Boots, Kingfisher, TK Maxx and N Brown – are run by women. But Boots’ UK boss Elizabeth Fagan is due to step down in September to make way for Seb James, though she will take on the role of non-executive chair.
Retail is not alone. There is a dearth of women running big business. According to The Sunday Times, the number of women in charge of the FTSE 350 companies has not risen in the past decade. There are 13 female chief executives today, the same as in 2008.
This is despite several Government-backed initiatives to make boards more diverse.
Retail Week Power List 2018
To find out who has been ranked the top 100 most influential people in retail visit retail-week.com/PowerList.
Where retail stands out is that women make up the bulk of employees in the industry. Retail’s workforce is 60% female, yet women account for just 20% of people on executive teams and 10% on executive boards, a study by consultancy Elixirr found.
Plus the bulk of these retailers target a female customer.
There is clearly a drive for change. Retail Week’s Be Inspired campaign has gained support from some of the sector’s biggest employers – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, The Co-op and Debenhams to name but a few.
What needs to change? Retailers need to identify where the pipeline dries up in their company and why that is. Is it a lack of flexibility in the organisation? Can your business make it easier for women to return to work after they have children? Are there enough female role models in your organisation?
Rather than lament the reality the list reflects, view it as a stark reminder that the industry needs to do everything it can to drive change at the top. Look within your business and ask: are we doing enough?