Over 50 retailers sign new charter to improve diversity

More than 50 leading retailers have signed up to a new Diversity and Inclusion charter led by the British Retail Consortium (BRC.)

The companies have all pledged to take “decisive action” to improve diversity practices across the retail industry.

The signatories of the new charter have promised to appoint diversity and inclusion executives, improve recruitment practices to remove bias, support career opportunity and progression for all, collect and contribute data on diversity, create a respectful and inclusive work environment, and ensure all line managers are responsible for supporting equity in the workplace.

The charter comes as the BRC publishes a new report in collaboration with The MBS Group and PwC, which demonstrates that more needs to be done in order to “create a fully diverse and equitable retail industry.”

The report explores different areas of diversity, including gender, race and ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability, social mobility, and age.

Data from the report showed that 32.6 per cent of board, 32 per cent of executive boards, and 37.5 per cent of direct reports to board are women.
But more than one in five retailers have no women at all on their Boards, and 15 per cent have no women on their executive committees.

According to the research 69 per cent of retailers have an all-male chief executive, chief financial officer, and chair. While only 9.6 per cent of the industry’s chief execs are women and only 4.3 per cent of the sector’s chairs are women.

The report also revealed that retail has very few black or ethnic minority leaders, with black and ethnic minorities making up just 4.5 per cent of boards, 5.8 per cent of executive committees, and 6 per cent of direct reports to boards, despite making up 12.5 per cent of the UK population.

While 84 per cent of retailers said that diversity and inclusion is a priority, only 49 per cent of retail employees agree it is sufficiently high up on their employers’ agenda.

The report also found that while 100 per cent of diversity and inclusion strategies look at gender, 90 per cent look at race and ethnicity, 68 per cent look at LGBTQ+, only half look at disability, while less than a quarter cover social mobility or age.

“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,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC. “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.”

But she said that she was “confident about the road ahead,” with the first step to accomplishing change being acknowledgment of where the challenges lie.

“Retail leadership continues to be unrepresentative of the UK population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability and social mobility,” said Elliot Goldstein, managing partner at The MBS Group. “Given that women make up 64.3 per cent of the retail workforce and are responsible for up to 80 per cent 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 per cent of CEOs are women.

He added: “One in 5 retailers still have all male boards, and 15 per cent 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 per cent of the largest retailers have all white boards – and 68 per cent 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 at PwC UK said that it was “very encouraging” to see so many retail businesses 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,” she added. “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.”

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