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Retailers must do more on diversity and inclusion among top executives – report

UK retailers must translate efforts to bolster diversity and inclusion among its top executives into meaningful change, according to a new report. Researchers from the British Retail… View Article


Retailers must do more on diversity and inclusion among top executives – report

UK retailers must translate efforts to bolster diversity and inclusion among its top executives into meaningful change, according to a new report.

Researchers from the British Retail Consortium trade body and the MBS Group advisory firm analysed the performance of 200 industry-leading businesses, with a focus on the highest leadership levels, including board and executive committees.

‘Diversity and Inclusion in UK Retail’, published today, analyses the retail D&I landscape in 2023 – it looks at gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, social mobility, and age. It aims to drive change in the industry by tracking progress made so far, and identifying what more needs to be done to ensure all individuals have equal opportunity to prosper.

The report shows there is still a “long road ahead” with 66% of retailers having no specific targets in place to track progress on D&I. Almost 30% of boardrooms remain all white, and gender diversity on leadership teams is still below the FTSE 350 benchmark of 40% (37.8%). The industry also lacks disabled role models, with only 17% of retailers able to identify one disabled leader in their organisation.

According to the BRC, “now is time for retailers to shift from introducing activities to assessing their impact and focusing on those that drive tangible outcomes”.

Key statistics of the report include:

  • Ethnic diversity Board representation has improved by 5 percentage points to 10% since 2021 but 30% of retail Boards remain all-white (4% are all-white in FTSE 100)
  • Gender diversity Board representation has improved by over 5 percentage points since 2021 to 37.8%. However, this still remains well below an equal gender split
  • 80% of retailers are focusing on disability in their D&I strategies compared to 50% in 2021
  • More individuals are comfortable to identify as trans, non-binary and gender fluid in the workplace
  • 65% of businesses now include social mobility in their D&I strategies, compared to 20% in 2021
  • 64% of businesses could identify at least one senior leader from the LGBTQ+ community, compared with 47% in 2022 and 27% in 2021

In 2021, alongside the first edition of this report, the BRC launched its D&I Charter. Over 80 retailers are now signatories and have pledged to improve D&I in the retail industry by focusing on six areas – oversight, recruitment, progression, reporting, inclusivity, and responsibility. The Charter helps retailers to challenge their culture and biases holistically and to embed D&I into their business.

The report also analyses where the barriers lie in improving D&I. Issues cited include lack of data, insufficient resources, and the potential backlash from some employees. The report identifies best practices and measures that have been successfully adopted so far which will help take the industry forward, such as employee resource groups, action plans, appointed D&I leaders, and training investment.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“I’m so encouraged to see so many retailers gearing up their D&I activity and the breath it covers across all diversity characteristics, but the progress we’ve made so far hasn’t sufficiently shifted the dial. I know this will take time, but equally, we must not rest on our laurels. While the will is there, until every individual – no matter their background – feels they can reach their true potential in the workplace, we are failing. It’s time to double down on assessing the impact of activities. We need to continually assess if what we’re doing is working, and if it’s not, what else can be done. Nonetheless, I am confident that we can deliver the change we aspire for, and I am excited to see the industry rise to the challenge.”

Elliott Goldstein, Managing Partner at The MBS Group, said:
“I’m hugely encouraged to see that more and more retailers are prioritising diversity and inclusion. Almost all retailers – 93% – now have a coordinated D&I strategy in place. However, it is equally clear that there remains a long way to go until retail leadership properly reflects the customers it serves – and despite the high level of inclusion activity, change is not happening fast enough. Our advice is for retailers to take a step back and re-evaluate the impact of their D&I activity. Just as with any commercial objective, leaders need to know what is working, where investment is effective – and tweak the plan accordingly. I’m confident that with deliberate and urgent action, we will see progress.”

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