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Comment: A hard truth about diversity in fashion retail

Kirsty McGregor

This year’s Drapers Top 100 list of the most influential people in fashion retail is full of talented businessmen and women. But what is noticeable this year, as it has been in previous years, is the lack of diversity at the top of larger fashion multiples. 

Next, JD Sports, Primark, Shop Direct, Inditex and H&M Group are all led by white men, albeit often with a more diverse senior team around them.

There is a strong network of women leading mid-sized retailers such as Oasis, Warehouse, Karen Millen and Topshop. At the department stores, Anne Pitcher and Stacey Cartwright are doing a great job at Selfridges and Harvey Nichols respectively, and next year Paula Nickolds will get to make her mark at John Lewis. But Nickolds is also the first female managing director to be appointed at the retailer in its 150-year history. 

The situation is improving, but there is still work to be done. A study into gender diversity at 44 retailers across a range of sectors, including fashion, published in June by consultancy Elixirr and Women in Retail, found that 60% of employees were women, yet only 20% of boardroom executives were female. There is less research available on ethnic diversity at the top of retail, but the Top 100 flags this up as another potential cause for concern. Drapers will look into this further in 2017.

Interestingly, the 70 senior executives interviewed for the Women in Retail study all agreed that gender diversity, as well as other forms, leads to better business results.

By overlooking these groups, retailers are missing out on a large pool of talent. Customers feel better connected to inclusive brands, while a more diverse workforce brings different ideas and more innovation. Women and ethnic minorities must be empowered to rise to the top.

  • Read the Drapers Top 100 2016

Readers' comments (1)

  • There is a mountain to be crossed as far as ethnic diversity is concerned.
    From personal experience, I believe, the recruiters see your name and if it is foreign sounding, then they don't bother checking your skills and achievements.

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