Retail sector has highest number of women on boards

Women account for 26% of non-executives in the retail sector, more than any other sector, according to new research from executive search firm Norman Broadbent.

Women in leadership: overcoming the barriers


The research also found that non-executive directors in the retail sector are aged 57 years old on average and that the board tenure for non-executive directors is four years, the lowest of any sector.

The research was conducted with BDO and the Quoted Companies Alliance, and involved an analysis of board composition of over 1,700 quoted companies including those within the FTSE 100, FTSE 250, Small Cap, Fledgling and AIM indices.

Industry sector differences

The report identifies clear differences between industry sectors when it comes to boardroom composition. It finds:

  • Investment companies and resources companies have the oldest executive board members, with average ages of 54 and 53 respectively;
  • The technology sector – comprised of many young, AIM listed companies, plays home to a disproportionate number of young executive directors; and
  • Construction and real estate companies are falling far behind other sectors in terms of women holding executive positions on boards.

Sue O’Brien, Chief Executive at Norman Broadbent, said: “The retail sector’s gender diversity record is impressive. It has the highest share of female non-executive directors amongst all industries surveyed – it is 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%).

“Boards should have the appropriate balance of skills, experience, independence and knowledge, and diversity is a key component of, not only good corporate governance, but of successful businesses. Fast moving sectors, such as retail, appear to have embraced this, with non-executives bringing more current experience which provides the fresh thinking that this sector needs. However, there is much more work to be done.”


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