- Turnover rates in business leadership positions are far higher for women (31%) than for men (24.1%), and that’s particularly true at retail and consumer goods companies, according to research from The Network of Executive Women released on Monday. Attrition rates globally across other sectors are 8% to 10% annually, according to the report.
- Female managers in such companies are leaving their jobs at nearly twice the rate of men, while those in higher-level positions and at the executive and C-suite levels are leaving at nearly four times the rate, according to the report. That’s despite the fact that women are being hired and promoted at roughly the same rate as men for entry-level and middle management positions.
- As a result, the candidate pool for executive-level manager and C-suite positions at such companies is quite homogeneous — 83% white and 67% male, according to the research, which was conducted in partnership with Mercer and Accenture. Possible reasons cited are feelings of isolation in higher positions, lack of support, little clarity in paths to promotion and a problematic work/life balance.
Women still make up the majority of customers for consumer goods companies and retailers, yet their representation ebbs when it comes to leadership at those companies. Alarmingly, the problem is poised to get even worse, according to NEW.
"Unless companies act now to tear down barriers to gender diversity and inclusion, the percentage of women executives at the participating companies is projected to drop precipitously, from 35% today to an alarming 15% by 2027,” Beth Marrion, Accenture managing director, retail and a NEW board member, said in a statement.
The dearth of leadership, which extends to the boardroom at many retailers, could be exacerbating sexual harassment issues at retailers and brands, according to Mark Lipton, graduate professor of management at The New School and author of Mean Men, The Perversion of America's Self-Made Man.
"Boards need to step up and take on a new role, of stewardship of culture," Lipton recently told Retail Dive. "It's so related to performance. There's solid research, scholarship coming out of business schools, that the more gender diversity on boards the better, that it goes straight to the bottom line. To me it's 'case closed.’"
Lululemon, Nike and Guess are among retailers that are investigating inappropriate behavior among top executives. At Lululemon, CEO Laurent Potdevin was ousted, Nike execs Trevor Edwards and Jayme Martin are out, and Guess founder Paul Marciano (who has denied accusations against him) is on leave pending an investigation.
For the report, NEW surveyed more than 3,600 of its members and U.S. employees in the retail and consumer goods industry (2,531 women and 1,270 men). In addition, eight retailers and consumer goods companies shared U.S. hiring, promotion and turnover data representing more than 400,000 employees.