U.K. Retail Is Failing on Diversity Measures, Report Shows

Britain’s retail industry still has long way to go when it comes to increasing the diversity of its leadership, an industry report showed.

Fewer than 10% of chief executive officers in retail are women, while fewer than 6% of executive committees have Black or ethnic minority representation, according to the survey carried out by the British Retail Consortium, the executive search firm MBS Group and consultancy PwC.

In a stark illustration of the challenge facing an industry that is one of the largest employers in Britain, the survey also showed that about one in five retailers has no women at all on their board. Roughly the same amount have none on their executive committees. Black and ethnic minority professionals currently make up just 4.5% of boards.

“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, CEO of the BRC, in an emailed statement.

Also among the findings was that about a quarter of retail workers from ethnic minority groups said they had experienced or witnessed racism in the workplace, according to the report.

Although there has been significant change in the past decade, the leadership of retail continues to be “unrepresentative of the U.K. population in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, disability and social mobility,” Elliott Goldstein, managing partner at MBS, said in the statement.

It shouldn’t be the case in 2021 that women account for such a small fraction of the leadership of an industry where they make up almost two-thirds of the workforce, he said. Ethnic minority representation also falls well short when compared with the wider population.

The BRC said it has launched a Diversity & Inclusion Charter that will track the progress retailers make on a number of key metrics, such as removing bias from recruitment processes. Already 55 companies, including J Sainsbury, Asda, Boots and Ted Baker, have signed up to the charter, it said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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