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Number of female retail chief executives falls 40%

The number of women holding chief executive positions in retail fell 40% in 2015, despite growing pressure to improve gender diversity.

Kate Bostock left her position as Coast CEO in 2015

Kate Bostock left her position as Coast CEO in 2015

Kate Bostock left her position as Coast CEO in 2015

According to the annual Retail CEO Tracker by recruitment firm Korn Ferry, the number of newly appointed female bosses fell from 25% to 15% in 2015. No females hold chief executive positions in the grocery sector.

Yet last year there was a 41% increase in the number of new chief executives appointed, rising from 32 in 2014 to 45.

The fashion and luxury industry accounted for 42% of the total number of retail CEO moves last year, at firms including and Mulberry. 

The Davies Report on boardroom diversity has led to an increase in women on company boards in listed businesses, but the majority have been non-executive appointments.

Sarah Lim, Korn Ferry’s UK head of the consumer practice, said: “The Davies Report has had dramatic impact on improving gender diversity on non-executive boards, and the debate has moved on to driving executive level diversity. In grocery retail, the issue is pronounced, with no females holding CEO seats in this sector, despite the many recent changes at the top.”

She added: “Because female customers control the vast majority of spending with these companies, we anticipate that addressing this imbalance, with effective succession planning and development, will become higher priority. The positive effect on the upper echelons of a female CEO’s appointment would be big.”


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