Retailers pledge to improve diversity as boardrooms remain male and white

Saleha Riaz
·3-min read
Pret a Manger joins a host of retailers including KFC and John Lewis that have pledged to take action to improve diversity practices across their industry. Photo: Getty Images
Pret a Manger joins a host of retailers including KFC and John Lewis that have pledged to take action to improve diversity practices across their industry. Photo: Getty Images

Around 50 retailers have signed up to a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) charter led by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) as recent data shows the lack of women on boards and very few black or ethnic minority leaders.

The companies, including Ann Summers, Reiss, John Lewis, KFC, Pret a Manger, Ted Baker (TED.L) and Superdry (SDRY.L), have pledged to take action to improve diversity practices across their industry. Their plan includes appointing diversity and inclusion executives; improving recruitment practices to remove bias; and collecting data on diversity.

Other firms that have signed the charter include Boots (WBA), All Saints, B&Q and WH Smith (SMWH.L).

BRC chief Helen Dickinson said “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.

“The first step to achieving change is acknowledgement and understanding of where the challenges lie. Now, we must act," she added.

A recent report by the BRC, the MBS Group and PwC showed that more work is needed to create a fully diverse and equitable retail industry.

The study found that more than one in five retailers have no women at all on their boards, and 15% have no women on their executive committees.

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Some 69% of retailers have an all-male CEO, CFO and chair. Only 9.6% of the industry’s CEOs are women and only 4.3% of the sector’s chairs are women.

The report also found that only 4.5% of boards, 5.8% of executive committees and 6% of direct reports to boards are from an ethnic minority background, compared to 12.5% of the UK population.

A majority (84%) of retailers say that D&I is a priority, but less than half (49%) of employees agree that it is sufficiently high up their employers’ agenda.

All (100%) D&I strategies in retail firms look at gender, 90% look at race and ethnicity and 68% look at LGBTQ+, but only half look at disability, and less than a quarter cover social mobility (20%) or age (23%).

Financial companies in the UK are facing a regulatory crackdown unless they improve diversity on their board of directors and amongst their employees, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said.

The UK's financial watchdog also said that it is considering making it a requirement for companies who wish to list in Britain to meet diversity standards.

And a report from earlier this month found that some of the UK's biggest companies in the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) have yet to appoint a single member of any ethnic background to their boards.

The Parker Review showed that out of 100 of Britain's best-known firms, 16 companies, including the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG.L), International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L) and BAE Systems (BA.L) have all-white boards.

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