A special edition of The Pragmatist to celebrate International Women's Day:
Women are the world's most powerful consumers, controlling or influencing around 70% of household consumption and with a purchasing power that exceeds the GDP of India and China combined.
And while most retail and consumer businesses are wise to this massive opportunity (beyond a few oversights: type `Hoover' into Argos' search bar, for example!), the age-old conundrum of women's underrepresentation at the boardroom table remains. There are just 30 women in full-time executive roles at FTSE 250 firms amounting to 6.4% of the total, and only 25 of the Fortune 500 companies in the US are run by women.
There are encouraging signs of change though, with retail and consumer businesses leading the charge: nearly a quarter of the 44 retail chief appointments made in 2018 were female.
We caught up with two inspirational women who have also been our clients on their perspective on the balance at Board Room level:
Jillian MacLean MBE, Founder and Managing Director, Drake & Morgan
Jillian opened her first & Morgan site, the Refinery, on Bankside in 2008. Drake & Morgan now operates 23 bars with turnover of £49.7m to March 2018.
"Growing up I always wanted to take the lead and open my own business. I opened Drake & Morgan with a fresh and optimistic mindset during the depths of the economic crisis in 2008 and never looked back. My mother, Margaret, taught me my most valuable skills of resilience and kindness. People are at the heart of everything we do and I maintain that it is so important how you treat people – empowering them to be creative and innovative. We fully embrace a range of talents and backgrounds throughout Drake & Morgan to keep us engaged and exciting."
Sally Bailey, Portfolio Chair
Sally has 25 years' experience in multi-channel retail and international markets. Under her stewardship, retailer White Stuff grew from £13m to over £100m turnover.
"Companies are finally catching up with the fact that senior teams from diverse backgrounds inevitably perform better. Consumer brands need to be at the forefront of this charge. How can a team of people of the same gender, age, ethnicity and upbringing possibly be able to empathise with the various customers that most companies are targeting? Diversity is good for business and organisations that don't embrace this fact risk becoming unappealing to employees and out of touch with their consumers."
It is highly compelling that, finding a better balance in leadership roles is also beneficial to balance sheets. The Peterson Institute for International Economics completed a survey of 21,980 firms from 91 countries and found that having women at the C-Suite level significantly increases net margins.
Theories abound to explain this: that diversity at the top reflects a more open culture and hiring process throughout the business; that complementarity in the architecture of the human brain provide a more rounded leadership style when representation is increased; that a greater wealth of experience and breadth of perspective enables better business decisions?
The answer is most likely `all of the above'. Achieving balance is clearly an important lever for businesses. At Pragma we will be taking some time out of our day today to celebrate our own inspirational women, within our business and across our client sectors.