A new report explains why the majority of women in retail are not climbing the ladder into senior leadership roles.

Women in Retail and management consultancy Elixirr conducted the study into gender diversity across 44 different retailers.

Seventy retail bosses from companies such as John Lewis, Tesco and ASOS were asked why women only make up 10% and 20% of retailers’ executive boards and teams respectively, despite 60% of total retail employees being women and 85% of purchase decisions being made or influenced by women.

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The study uncovered three common reasons or ‘excuses’ as to why gender balance in retail boardrooms has not been achieved. They are:

Lack of female role models
Coined as a ‘numbers disadvantage’, it was acknowledged by many of our interviewees that there is a lack of female role models at the top of retail organisations, particularly ones that are accessible and relatable. Without a prevalent and diverse set of female role models, it becomes hard to pave the way without succumbing to changing your personality style so that you can ‘join the club’.

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Lack of confidence
It’s widely acknowledged that women will put themselves forward for a new position only when they are confident they can do at least 80% of the role, whereas men will put up their hands if they think they can do 20%. the report said.

Lack of flexible working hours
Interviewees highlighted the traditional operational nature of retail as heavily and negatively impacting on work-life balance. This makes it difficult (or at least seem difficult) to accommodate flexible working. Long trading hours and traditional early morning meetings that coincide with school drop-offs can be a challenge for working mothers, who in today’s society, still bear the majority of childcare responsibilities.

Setting gender balance targets, making a deliberate decision to always consider female candidates for recruitment and promotion and appointing an executive owner who is responsible for driving the gender diversity agenda at all levels were suggested as ways to kick start effective change.

Stephen Newton, founder and managing partner of Elixirr said: “Now is the perfect time to really effect this commercially imperative change. In partnership with Women in Retail, we’re thinking big – we’re passionate about turning the gender balance dial across all industries. So, this is just the beginning.”