N Brown boss fears Brexit may affect gender diversity in retail boardrooms

The chief executive of multi-brand fashion retailer N Brown has warned that fewer women may end up in top retail jobs if the industry falls victim to a post-Brexit downturn.

Speaking to the Press Association following a panel discussion at Retail Week Live in London, Angela Spindler said that retailers are likely to lean on seasoned executives who have experience guiding companies through previous recessions – most of which are men.

This will give rising female retailers fewer chances to enter the boardroom.

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“Contemporary successful businesses recognise the value of diversity … but it gets stalled when times are tough,” Spindler said.

“When times are tough and there’s economic uncertainty, then businesses become less open to taking risks. And I guess because there are fewer experienced females around, just by nature of how retail has been populated to this point, then that sort of slows things down a bit.

“As you know, people tend to go back to looking for people who have done it before, or have been through different phases of recession or economic downturn. So it’s something that we should be alive to and manage rather than let happen.”

But others believe there is a strong business case to push diversity forward, particularly when times get tough.

Jamie Broderick, chief executive for UBS Wealth Management UK, said that boardroom diversity can result in ” innovative solutions”.

“When you have change in the business, when you have stress in a business, those are exactly the times when you need creative, diverse debate around what’s next, because diversity works best in an environment where you’re struggling with problems, and trying to create innovative solutions around change,” he told the Press Association.

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