Leaders need to ‘double down’ on efforts to improve retail sector diversity and ensure senior teams reflect the communities they serve, according to a report.
More than a third of retailers in the UK have all-white boards or all white executive committees, while women account for less than 40% of board and executive committee members, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and The MBS Group’s Tracking progress on diversity and inclusion in UK retail report.
Although ethnic diversity has increased, momentum in this area has slowed. The proportion of ethnic minority leaders at executive committee level increased by only 1.9% in the past year, while those directly reporting to the executive committee has decreased by 4.3%.
Although black people make up 2.4% of store colleagues, they only represent 1% of people at senior manager level and above.
However, retail sector diversity is now more of a focus for firms, and their approach is more comprehensive than last year.
Ninety-one per cent had a coordinated equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) strategy, compared with 76% in 2021, and in 74% of companies this is led by the CEO (50% in 2021).
However, only 59% of strategies focused on social mobility, 29% focused on age, and 76% focused on disability.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “It is time to embed inclusion into the culture of every business. Nearly 80 leading retailers have come together to sign our D&I Charter promising every individual the opportunity to prosper. The will is clearly there but the industry must double down to drive the diversity outcomes we aspire to.
Equality, diversity and inclusion
“Diverse businesses are more successful businesses. While retailers are increasingly committed to D&I, this will take time to translate into results. Women are still underrepresented at the most senior levels, ethnic diversity urgently needs addressing, and areas such as social mobility, disability and age are still not sufficiently prioritised in strategies.”
The report suggests retailers need to improve the completeness of their EDI data, although data collection has improved. More than a third of those that collect EDI data say it is insufficient.
Elliott Goldstein, managing partner at executive search firm The MBS Group, said: “Progress creating more diverse leadership in retail has been offset by a number of backward steps.
“On the one hand, retailers can be proud of the headway they’ve made on D&I strategies, which are now more common and more comprehensive than they were last year, and more women sit on retail boards than ever before. On the other hand, progress towards representation is worryingly slow, with the industry’s most senior positions still dominated by white men, and fewer women in the pipeline beneath executive committee.
“In our current commercial landscape, retailers must work harder to reflect the communities they serve. The time for change was yesterday.”