Retail and consumer goods companies are adept at attracting women for entry-level roles and advancing them to middle management, but are not promoting them to top-level executive positions, according to recent research by McKinsey & Co.
The industry’s talent pipeline narrows sharply, as women hold 46 percent of entry-level roles, 43 percent of manager positions, 36 percent of senior manager and director positions, 30 percent of vice president roles and 24 percent of senior vice president roles. Only 13 percent of c-suite roles are held by women.
The proportion of women in the industry’s c-suite positions is significantly lower than the proportion of women (18 percent) in the c-suite in McKinsey’s total sample of 30,000 employees at 118 North American companies. In the total sample, women were 92 percent as likely as their male counterparts to make the jump from senior vice president to the c-suite, while in the retail and consumer goods sector the odds were far lower, at 45 percent.
"Not surprisingly, only 23 percent of women in this sector feel that gender is a priority for their CEOs, compared with 35 percent for the overall sample,” according to the report, "Breaking down the gender challenge.”
Pipeline pain points
The organizations studied were afflicted by one of three common pipeline pain points: women are unable to enter the industry (automotive and industrial engineering, energy and basic materials, and technology), are stuck in the middle (logistics and transportation, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, and hospitality) or, like the retail and consumer goods sector, locked out of the top spots (also the media and telecom sectors).
McKinsey & Company advises leaders of companies struggling to put more women in top jobs to ask themselves these four questions:
- How can we counteract trends causing women to move away disproportionately from line roles and P&L responsibility?
- How do senior, external and lateral hires affect our pipeline? Are they diluting gender gains?
- Which executive men and women are using — and publicly supporting — work-flexibility programs? If none have done so, which leaders would be the most effective work-flexibility champions?
- Who is sponsoring and mentoring senior high-potential women?
"Targeting pipeline blockages isn’t a panacea but can be a valuable means of jump-starting progress,” according to the report. "Tackling gender issues should not be a firefighting exercise — jumping, every year, to the next thing. It takes a strategic eye to find the root causes of gender inequality and build a new kind of organization.”