Nestlé boss rejects 'glass ceiling' theory

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

No glass ceiling blocking women: Nestlé’s boss Fiona Kendrick
No glass ceiling blocking women: Nestlé’s boss Fiona Kendrick

Related tags: Chief executives, Management occupations, Chief executive officer

Nestlé’s boss Fiona Kendrick has rejected accusations that a glass ceiling is preventing women from becoming leaders of big UK food and drink firms.

Kendrick, who was appointed chairman and chief executive officer of Nestlé UK and Ireland in 2012, said it was no more difficult for women to get into the board rooms of large food and drink companies than men.

Nothing stopping females

“I don’t think there’s anything stopping any female making it to the top of the food and drink industry,”​ she said. “There are no glass ceilings in this industry and I think females can, arguably, relate more to food products and shoppers​ [than men].”

However, women accounted for only 23% of all board directors in FTSE 100 manufacturing companies, according to a recent report from the manufacturer’s organisation EEF. This was up from 19% in 2013 and 21% in 2014. And, just 24 women held executive director roles out of the total 280 FTSE 100 companies, according to the Financial Times.

In 2011, in a review by Lord Mervyn Davies into women on boards, the UK government set a target of 25% female representation on FTSE 100 boards by this year, but only 23.5% of all these positions are currently held by women.

Yet, Kendrick, who is also the president of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: “There are some great, great women coming through this industry who will become chief executives. I have no doubt there are more women coming into the industry.”

Nestlé was taking on more graduate female staff than males, although it wasn't actively seeking to do so, she added. Women were usually better candidates and applied in larger numbers to work at Nestlé than men, she said.

Low number of women directors

The low number of women executive directors is also disappointing, EEF said. Women in non-executive roles had risen from 25% last year to 28% this year, but only 8% of executive roles were filled by women, it added.

Women were also underrepresented in other food and drink industry roles. They account for just 7% of those starting an engineering and manufacturing technologies apprenticeship in 2012/13, EEF added. Women also made up just 34% of the total food and drink manufacturing workforce.

Read our feature interview with Kendrick – first published in our sister title Food Manufacture​ – here​.

Meanwhile, seven of the most powerful women in food and drink were revealed among the Fortune 50 list for 2014 published last September. See who joined Pepsico chairman and chief executive Indra Nooyi at the top by visiting our photogallery.

Related topics: People & Skills

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