Food industry ‘needs to recruit more women’

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Nestlé boss Fiona Kendrick is president of the Food and Drink Federation
Nestlé boss Fiona Kendrick is president of the Food and Drink Federation

Related tags London stock exchange Ftse 100 index

The food and drink manufacturing sector needs to recruit more women, says the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), after a government-backed review recommended the appointment of more women bosses in British businesses.

Companies listed on the FTSE 100 – the 100 largest companies listed on the London Stock Exchange – should have at least 33% of their executive pipeline positions filled by women by 2020, according to the review lead by Philip Hampton, chair of GlaxoSmithKline, and Helen Alexander, chair of UBM.

An FDF spokesman told “There is a clear need to bring more women into food and drink, and our members are committed to ensuring diversity in the boardroom.

“The food and drink industry will need 130,000 new recruits by 2024 to meet the skills needs of our sector, particularly in STEM​ [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] roles, where we are actively looking to attract more women.”

130,000 new recruits by 2024

The federation – whose president is Nestlé boss Fiona Kendrick – added: “Our Taste Success campaign aspires to engage with young people and show them that food and drink manufacturing can offer a rewarding career with lots of exciting career opportunities for individuals looking to progress to senior roles.”

Meanwhile, 25% of those currently sitting on FTSE 100 executive committees, and their direct reports, are women, revealed statistics published this week (November 8). There were still 12 FTSE 100 executive committees with no women members.

The authors of the Hampton Alexander Review said: “It is clear that the voluntary business-led framework to improve the number of women at the top of British business is working and it is time to extend the focus beyond the boardroom.”

‘Breadth of experienced women’

The authors added that they did not under-estimate the challenge the new voluntary target presents for many FTSE companies. “However, we are encouraged by the breadth of experienced women ready and willing to step up, the significant efforts underway in many companies on this agenda and the ability of British business to work together to bring about change when it is needed,”​ they said.

Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening said: “No woman should be held back just because of her gender. It’s vital we help more women get into the top jobs at our biggest companies, not only because it inspires the next generation but because financially business can’t afford to ignore this issue – bridging the UK gender gap in work could add £150bn to our annual GDP​ [gross domestic product] in 2025.

“We’ve achieved amazing things – we now have a woman on every board in the FTSE 100 and we have the lowest gender pay gap on record. But we have to push further and focus on the executive pipeline. I am sure that the ambitions set out by Sir Philip and Dame Helen will help us get more women into those top jobs.”

What they say about promoting women to top jobs

Business secretary Greg Clark​: “Business has made progress since 2010 in making sure women who aspire to rise to the top can – but there is a lot more to do and there is no time for complacency. Sir Philip and Dame Helen’s review underlines the importance of an industry-led approach, building on the successes we’ve seen so far to increase the number of women in senior business positions. Boards and chief executives in particular must embrace the need for change and step up to the challenges set by this review to ensure everyone gets a fair shot at making it to the top.”

KPMG, vice chair Melanie Richards​: “While UK plc has made great strides forward in promoting more women into the boardroom, there has been little improvement at the executive level. If we are to continue to make progress towards achieving greater gender balance, it is critical that all levels of the pipeline are addressed.

“The current lack of available industry data demonstrates many companies are nervous about reporting on diversity.  Leaders are perhaps concerned that disclosing their metrics publicly could harm their reputation or leave them a hostage to fortune. This nervousness is holding both business and individuals back. Only by speaking openly and honestly about the challenges they face will businesses meet the targets set by the Hampton-Alexander Review.”

Confederation of British Industry (CBI), deputy-director general, Josh Hardie: “Having a greater number of women in leadership roles is making a real difference to the success of the UK economy, our productivity and our future place in the world. 

“These proposals are a welcome way forward to build on the progress we have made so far. The CBI supports the voluntary, business-led recommendations on new targets and public data disclosure. Significant improvement has been made since Lord Davies’ review began in 2011, and companies must now maintain that momentum both at board and executive level.”

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