Close this search box.

Study finds lack of diversity at board level as BRC launches charter to shake up the industry

More than 50 retails pledge to be more diverse (Image: Shutterstock)

More than 50 leading retailers have signed up to a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) charter led by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and pledged to take decisive action to improve diversity practices across the retail industry as a study shows how lacking in diversity the industry actually is.

The report launched today by the BRC, The MBS Group and PwC finds that, while 32.6% of board, 32.0% of executive boards and 37.5% of direct reports to board are women, more than one in five retailers have no women at all on their boards, and 15% have no women on their executive committees.

The study also finds that 69% of retailers have an all-male CEO, CFO and chair. Only 9.6% of the industry’s CEOs are women and just 4.3% of the sector’s chairs are women.

Retail has very few black or ethnic minority leaders, with 4.5% of boards, 5.8% of executive committees, 6.0% of direct reports to boards are from an ethnic minority background, compared to 12.5% of the UK population.

With 84% of retailers saying, however, that D&I is a priority – although fewer than half (49%) of retail employees agree that D&I is sufficiently high up their employers’ agenda – a raft of retailers have signed up to BRC’s D&I initiative to attempt to redress the balance.

These businesses will focus on oversight, recruitment, progression, reporting, inclusivity and responsibility. Signatories pledge to appoint diversity and inclusion executives, improve recruitment practices to remove bias, support career opportunity and progression for all and collect and contribute data on diversity. there is also an onus on creating respectful and inclusive work environment and to ensure all line managers are responsible for supporting equity in the workplace.

Retailers that have signed up so far include ALDI, All Saints, Ann Summers, AO Retail, Argos, ASDA, B&Q, BKUK Group, Boots UK, Bravissimo, Burberry, Card Factory, Carpetright, DFS Furniture, Dunelm Group, Greggs, John Lewis Partnership, Joules Group, KFC, Kingfisher, Lidl GB, L’Occitane, MandM Direct, Matalan Retail, McDonald’s Restaurants, Mountain Warehouse, Ocado Retail, Oliver Bonas, Paperchase Products, Pets at Home, Pret A Manger, Reiss Limited, Richer Sounds, Sainsbury’s, Savers Health and Beauty, Screwfix Direct, Seasalt, Starbucks EMEA, Studio Retail, Superdrug Stores, Superdry, Ted Baker (No Ordinary Designer Label), The Co-operative Group, The Disney Store, The Fragrance Shop (TFS Buying), The Very Group, The Watches of Switzerland Group, The White Company, The Works Stores, Waitrose, Well Pharmacy, WHSmith, Wickes Building Supplies, Wilko Retail and WM Morrison Supermarkets.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, comments: “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.”

She adds: “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, says: “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% of the retail workforce and are responsible for up to 80% 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% of CEOs are women. One in five retailers still have all male boards, and 15% 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% of the largest retailers have all white boards – and 68% 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.”

Katy Bennett, Director, Inclusion and Diversity Consulting, PwC UK, adds: “It’s very encouraging to see so many retail companies committed to improving their diversity and inclusion at a time when issues surrounding gender, race and ethnicity in the workplace are in sharp focus. There is still work to do to ensure workplaces are inclusive for all and that discriminatory behaviour is called out and addressed. The retail industry can work towards achieving a better representation for women and those from diverse backgrounds, especially at the most senior levels. A focus on ensuring that everyone has equal opportunities to progress and for companies to better reflect their customers, brings benefits to business as well as to society.”

Read More

Register for Newsletter

Group 4 Copy 3Created with Sketch.

Receive 3 newsletters per week

Group 3Created with Sketch.

Gain access to all Top500 research

Group 4Created with Sketch.

Personalise your experience on