Placing gender on the consumer products and retail agenda

You might think most businesses are measuring progress to gender parity. Think again.

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Women occupy just 16% of seats on the executive boards of the world’s top 200 consumer products and retail (CPR) companies. While this is just one example of the gender gap that exists throughout the global workforce, the urgency for female C-suite representation is particularly stark across CPR given that the majority of consumer goods buying decisions are made by women globally.

A call to action

In late 2015, EY interviewed 350 C-suite leaders from 51 countries and across six industries about how businesses are addressing gender diversity and disruption.

Of the CPR senior executives we spoke to, only 12% of those surveyed expect to see a significant increase in the number of female leaders in the next five years, and it is a clear call to action that 84% admit they could do more to attract, retain and promote women into leadership positions.

Diversity is key to future success

Ninety-eight percent agree that diversity of thought and experience is critical to successfully handling the disruption facing the sector. Seventy-nine percent also recognize that gender diversity boosts business performance. It is surprising, therefore, that only 4% of the CPR companies we spoke to have put in place systems to measure the impact of gender diversity on financial performance.

Industry disconnects impede progress

Our industry-wide survey identified five disconnects that are holding businesses back from achieving gender diversity on their boards. These include companies’ failure to create pipelines for future female leaders, inconsistency in the way in which the value of diversity is perceived and failure to measure women’s progression.

Enablers for gender diversity

Closing the gender gap requires board members to step up and make real commitments to deliver a legacy of a more inclusive workforce. Taking steps to create a culture of diversity that encourages both men and women to excel, mentoring initiatives from senior leaders and implementing formal programs to develop female leaders are all powerful enablers that instil measurable actions.

Gender disparity is improving, but slowly: the World Economic Forum predicts it will be well over a century before we see equality. For the consumer products and retail sector, the urgency for change is clearer than ever before.


EY - Placing gender on the consumer products agenda: video

Angela Cretu, Avon’s Group VP, Africa, Middle East and Turkey

Watch Angela talk about the benefits that gender diversity brings to the consumer goods and retail sector