It's fair to say that Tesco chairman John Allan surprised and angered a few people over his recent comments about diversity in the boardroom. Speaking at a Retail Week Live conference (the day after International Women's Day, not the best timing) last week, Allan said:
"If you are female and from an ethnic background, and preferably both, then you are in an extremely propitious period...If you are a white male, tough. You are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard."
Allan's remarks sparked a wave of criticism, not least from Women’s Equality Party leader, Sophie Walker who told the Retail Gazette that she would no longer shop at Tesco in protest.
In light of recent statistics, Allan's comments are, at the very least, a little surprising. According to not-for-profit women's community Women in retail, last year 60% of retail industry employees were women and yet 20% of executive teams and 10% of executive board members were women. This, despite the fact that 85% of all retail purchases were made by women. Looks like that seesaw is just a little unbalanced, doesn't it?
According to the latest Female FTSE Board Report (opens in new tab), less than a quarter of FTSE 100 boardroom appointments in the six months to March in 2016 were women. Which got us thinking about the UK's top supermarkets: which ones are really the most pro-woman?
Thanks to the FTSE Female Index published in 2016 (opens in new tab) we're able to answer this question, and - sorry, Tesco - but it isn't you...
In first place it's...Marks & Sparks with the percentage of women on the board at 36.4% (that's four women out of eleven men).
In second place it's...John Lewis Partnership with the percentage of women on the board at 33%.
In third place it's...Sainsburys with the percentage of women on the board at 30% (that's three women out of 10 men).
In fourth place it's...Tesco with the percentage of women on the board at 27.3% (that's three women out of 11 men).
In fifth place it's...Morrison with the percentage of women on the board at 25% (that's two women out of eight men).
What do all of these statistics prove? Well, perhaps it illustrates why no supermarket has been given a gold gender diversity medal yet. As these very recent percentages show, UK supermarket boardrooms are still nowhere near equal, even when you look at a company like Marks & Sparks that is working hard to bridge the gap.
According to Women in Retail (opens in new tab) there are three ways that retail can work towards much-needed inclusivity in the boardroom:
'Step 1: Set gender balance targets, and continue to measure and report on them.
Step 2. Make a deliberate decision to always consider female candidates for recruitment and promotion into key executive positions.
Step 3. Appoint an Executive owner who is accountable for driving the gender diversity agenda at all levels, with a particular focus on the pipeline of emerging leaders.'
It's 2017, afterall. Surely it's time to get those percentages up to where they should be: 50%.
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