2014

Women's Buying Power Impact on Boards of Retail/Consumer Goods Companies

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Are women consumers who are aggressively wooed by retailers during this holiday shopping season being invited as assiduously to the boards of companies whose success depends on women's purchases? Yes and No. Women account for 18.4% of directors serving on the boards of the world's largest retail and consumer products companies globally, according to the latest Corporate Women Directors International (CWDI) report on Women Board Directors of Top Retail and Consumer Products Companies Globally

This industry percentage reflects a better record of appointing women to board directorships than the 15% women's representation on the boards of Fortune Global 200 companies. In addition, over a third of companies surveyed have gone beyond tokenism and have three or more women on their boards. However, the numbers are not where they need to be given women's aggregate market impact.

"There is no industry where women play a more dominant role as workers, producers and consumers than the retail and consumer products industry," says CWDI Chair Irene Natividad. "With women making 85% of buying decisions in the U.S. and 65% globally, many more companies now recognize women's buying power and have increased their appointments of women to board seats, but there are still laggards who don't see the business rationale."

The report includes 168 retail/consumer products companies with at least $1 billion in annual revenue from 26 different countries. Among Top Fifteen best performers with the highest percentage of women directors, U.S. companies dominate, with Avon Products ranking first worldwide with 60% of its Board being female. With at least a third of board seats held by women, other U.S. best performing retail/consumer goods companies include Procter & Gamble, Estee Lauder, Macy's, Williams-Sonoma, TJX Inc., Hormel Foods, PVH Corporation, Campbell Soup, Coach Inc., Foot Locker, General Mills, and Office Depot.

What factors accelerate women's access to board appointments?

  • Having a woman at the helm makes a big difference. Among the Top Fifteen companies with the highest percentage of female directors, six have women CEOs or Board Chairs. Avon Products, Burberry Group, Williams-Sonoma, and TJX Companies all have women CEOs, while Germany's Henkel and the Swatch Group have women as Board Chairs. In addition to the six companies with women CEOs among the top performers, four other companies in the report have a women CEO or Board Chair. The percentage of women directors on the boards of companies with a woman CEO or Board Chair is almost double the industry average – 35.8% vs. 18.4% -- a pattern found in a prior CWDI study of women-led companies.
  • Companies in countries with proactive initiatives to increase women's access to board seats have higher representation of women on their boards. Retail/consumer products companies based in countries where there is a legislative quota for women directors (Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain) have 24% of their board seats held by women, compared to only 17.8% for companies based in countries without a quota. Currently, there are 22 countries with quotas for women directors ranging from 30-40% for publicly-listed and state-owned companies.

Similarly, companies based in countries with gender diversity included in their corporate governance codes also outperform in terms of placing women on boards. According to the report, the retail/consumer products companies in these countries fill 25.9% of the board seats with women compared to only 16% in those without such language.

"Clearly, these recent efforts to increase women's presence on corporate boards are beginning to work as they create pressure whether from government or private sector institutions to respond," states CWDI Chair Natividad.

However, there are no mandates, whether from government or industry, to increase women's access to senior management roles. The study found that the percentage of women executive officers in retail/consumer products companies does not equal the percentage of women board directors.  Among the companies surveyed, only 12.6% of executive officer positions are held by women, 5.8% lower than the percentage of women board directors in this industry.

In order to increase the number of women in the pipeline for board seats, the report calls for more programs to advance women up the corporate ladder from middle management to C-suite positions.

About CWDI: 

Corporate Women Directors International (CWDI) promotes the increased participation of women in corporate boards globally, fosters national and international networks to link women directors, and seeks to hone directors' skills in corporate governance. CWDI has conducted research internationally since 1996 resulting in 22 reports in 17 years. For more information about CWDI or its publications, please contact Corporate Women Directors' Washington, D.C. headquarters at cwdi@globewomen.com.

SOURCE Corporate Women Directors International



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