London-based management consultancy Elixirr has struck an alliance with Women in Retail, an exclusive members’ organisation for board and senior women working in the retail industry.
The retail sector, which employs more than 2.8 million workers, is one of the most diverse sectors of the UK economy. Nearly 60% of all professionals are female, and even in the more senior positions – which across the board are typically are still dominated by men – women in retail lead the pack industry wide. A recent survey from executive search firm Norman Broadbent, conducted with BDO and the Quoted Companies Alliance, shows that retail has the highest share of female non-executive directors amongst all industries surveyed – double the average at 25.8%. The share of female executive directors is also higher than the average for all industries (8.2% versus 6.2%). Unilever, Kingfisher, NEXT, Marks & Spencer and Burberry show the way when it comes to women on boards of FTSE 100 firms, according to a recent report by Lord Davies and KPMG, commissioned by the Government.
But, despite the impressive progress in diversity booked over the years, retail, similarly to other sectors, still has a long way to go before it reaches gender parity, an end-state which according to McKinsey & Company could (industry wide) add hundreds of millions in economic value to the UK economy. One of the institutions that commits itself to advancing the position of women in retail is ‘Women in Retail’, a network founded by Karen Richards back in 2005. Prior to establishing the network, Richards worked seven years for Penna, a recruitment and people management business, KB Associates (a retail consultancy specialising in emerging markets), as well as more than ten years in the retail and consumer goods industry. “When I formed Women in Retail, my motivation was simple: I had been through a professional challenge and would have benefited so much from a mentor – a like-minded senior figure in the industry – someone who understood the challenges and had perhaps 'been there, experienced that'. I needed guidance from a woman's perspective. There seemed to be nothing out there that offered this opportunity,” reflects Richards on her motivation to establish the network.
Over the past decade, Women in Retail has grown into one of the most prominent networks of senior women in retail, covering the breadth of the industry. Key objective of the members’ organisation is to provide women a platform which enables them to come together in a “natural, relaxed and uncontrived way” says Richards, creating the ideal setting for knowledge sharing, coaching and professional development. The not for profit organisation organises four events a year at luxury venues across London, with the events designed to provide industry insight as well as learning from outside. “And always with a little fun too,” adds Richards, who in addition highlights that the association is not open to retail business development professionals, shielding the common interest of the participating executives, although she does recognise the important contribution they can offer to the sector.
Women in Retail is supported by a number of corporates championing diversity in the retail industry, including headline sponsor Barclays. The latest member to join the ranks is Elixirr, a fast growing management consulting firm headquartered in London, with further offices in Johannesburg and San Francisco. Elixirr provides clients consulting, innovation and digital services across a range of industries, with retail one of its key sectors, and on the back of its further growth ambitions in the industry, the consultancy has decided to commit its support to Women in Retail. As part of the deal, which sees the network join Elixirr’s Accelerator Network, Women in Retail will move into the consultancy’s London office. “We’re delighted to start a partnership with Women in Retail. We share the same values, so we’re excited to provide them with a London base. They’ll be working side-by-side with us and other growing businesses as part of our Accelerator Network, so we can support their growth ambitions,” comments Stephen Newton, Managing Partner and co-founder of Elixirr.
Jill Ross, a Retail Partner at Elixirr (since May this year) and actively involved in the Women in Retail community for the past four years, adds: “I’m excited that Elixirr as a firm will now also be a part of this vibrant community of successful and accomplished women with a responsibility to nurture the talent of future generations.”
Commenting on the alliance, and the opportunity window to further grow the business, Richards says she is excited to be working with Elixirr. “The partnership comes at a perfect time for Women in Retail, as we celebrate our 10th anniversary. This is an important milestone for us and we’re excited to be working on realising our ambitious growth plans.”