Wholesale sector boosts senior female leadership by 55%

Women in Wholesale bags

The number of senior level women working in UK foodservice and grocery wholesale has increased from 11% to 17% over the past three years – a 55% increase.

An exclusive HIM & MCA Insight study, commissioned by Women in Wholesale (WiW), has investigated the progress that’s been made since the launch of the WiW initiative in 2016, which supports women working in wholesale with educational networking events, sponsorships and coaching.

Wholesalers and buying groups that have successfully boosted their female leadership teams include Sugro, Musgrave, Reynolds, Country Range, CJ Lang, Blakemore, Birchall and Booker.

The research also revealed changes in the ‘key barriers to progress’ that were cited by women two years ago (HIM & WiW Report 2017).

Flexible working is a big issue for just 15% of respondents versus 53% in 2017.

“Many businesses are now looking at practical ways to make flexible and remote working an option”, said WiW founder Elit Rowland. “The FWD’s work with job-design agency Timewise was a key catalyst in this.”

Key barriers to progress still include a lack of personal career development (57%), feeling motivated and inspired at work (31%) and a lack of respect (28%), compared with 51%, 34% and 38% respectively, in 2017.

Natasha Vink, Research Manager at HIM & MCA Insight added: “These results show positive improvement, with a greater proportion of senior exec roles across the wholesale industry being filled by women. However, there is more to be done and this piece of research, in addition to the work of WiW, is pivotal to driving change and highlighting the challenges women face across the sector.”

WiW is continuing to inspire and support individuals with its Confidence Coaching workshops, which have been introduced to help people overcome personal barriers to progress. One-to-one sessions have already been held with five wholesalers across the UK.

WiW’s first ‘Confidence Groupie’ took place last month, supporting up to six people in one session.

Other highlights from the report include 57% of female respondents and 30% of male respondents saying they have experienced gender discrimination in the workplace.

Two-thirds (66%) of females said that gender diversity is more of an issue for wholesale than it is for other grocery and convenience sectors, an improvement on 81% in 2017.

The full results of the research will be presented at the WiW Conference on 10 October 2019.