Retail executive committee membership in the UK is 78% white male, and boards are 69% white male, according to new research.

The study looked at the US and the rest of Europe too and suggested that retail executive search needs to be reviewed, to close the gender and ethnicity gap.

According to the same report, Veronique Laury is currently the only female CEO of a big name retail brand in the UK; and she is due to leave the post soon. Among the other senior female staff in this sector are Amanda James (Next Finance Director), Paula Nickolds (John Lewis Managing Director), and Jill McDonald (Marks & Spencer Head of Clothing and Home).

This startling statistic came from a joint research project that included the World Retail Congress.

A sector that employs more women than men

The findings of this report suggest that to truly keep pace with consumer demand and equality compliance, retailers need to audit their retail executive search and take steps to attract candidates from a more diverse talent pool.

Particularly as this disproportionate figure for men in top jobs flies in the face of statistics for the entire UK retail workforce. This sector is a major employer of female staff, with around 58% of all retail jobs held by women.

Pay is more equitable

The good news though, is that according to the British Retail Consortium, the UK is more equitable than other employment sectors when it comes to gender pay gaps.

Though salary bands for different genders are still disparate in UK retail, the 9.1% difference compares well with other employment categories.

The BRC and Government Equality Office have announced a joint project to address some of these issues and create a more equitable and diverse workforce.

Commercial advantages of leadership diversity

Apart from the ethical and compliance connotations of making executive posts more accessible to a wider range of candidates, there are business benefits to be gained.

There is substantial evidence to suggest that a diverse leadership team provides greater cohesion and productivity, and reduces executive churn.

This was backed up by a McKinsey report in 2018 that concluded: “Companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians.”

Contact the team at Anthony Gregg to discuss your recruitment needs, and how you can identify and tackle gender and ethnicity barriers in your executive search.