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Retailers pledge to improve diversity and inclusion

Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Affairs Correspondent
·3-min read

More than 50 of the UK’s leading retailers have pledged to improve their diversity and inclusion (D&I) following findings that representation of women and ethnic minorities “falls well short”.

There is “much to be done” to improve D&I in retail, according to a report by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which found more than one in five retailers have no women on their boards and there are “very few” black or ethnic minority leaders.

Some 55 retailers have signed up to pledges that include appointing D&I executives, supporting career opportunities for all and creating respectful and inclusive work environments.

The BRC’s report also found 15% of retailers have no women on their executive committees while 69% of retailers have an all-male chief executive, chief financial office and chair.

Just 9.6% of the industry’s chief executives are women and only 4.3% of the sector’s chairs are women.

Just 4.5% of board members, 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.

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

The study found that all D&I strategies looked at gender, 90% looked at race and ethnicity and 68% looked at LGBTQ+, but just half considered disability and less than a quarter covered social mobility (20%) or age (23%).

BRC chief executive 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.

“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 (human resource consultants) 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.

“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, said: “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.

“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.”