A concerted effort among fashion companies to increase the number of board-level female executives is seeing results in the sector, with a rise in female chief executives after last year’s decline.
Research by recruitment consultancy CTPartners shows a significant jump in the number of female chief executive appointments in the last calendar year and first four months of this year compared with 2012. There were nine women appointed to head up retail companies with a turnover of £50m or more in 2013, 18% of the overall figure.
Key moves so far this year include former Burberry finance director Stacey Cartwright’s appointment as chief executive at Harvey Nichols, taking over from long-standing chief executive Joseph Wan, and All Saints’ promotion of Tracey Mann to managing director for Europe and the Americas.
And at the beginning of April, Claire’s Accessories promoted Beatrice Lafon to chief executive from her previous role as European president.
This reverses the decline seen last year, when Drapers reported that eight women had been replaced by men as chief executive in the 16 months to April 2013.
In 2011 the government-led Davies Review recommended a target of 25% of all FTSE 100 boards to be made up of women by 2015.
Nicola Wensley, business director at recruitment firm Page Executive, said: “There has been a will to see more diversity in fashion companies and that is having an effect. In the fashion industry more than most we should be able to achieve this. We’re not quite there yet, but there’s definitely been a realisation of this.”
Wensley said recruitment processes were becoming increasingly balanced, with companies demanding shortlists to be “as rounded as possible”.
“It’s good for companies to have an inclusive workplace. It gives incentives for women to join companies and makes them become employers of choice. There’s been a general focus on this including from government.”