Food firms lagging on workplace diversity

By Dan Colombini contact

- Last updated on GMT

The new Diversity in Food and Grocery report drew on data captured from over 200 companies
The new Diversity in Food and Grocery report drew on data captured from over 200 companies

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Food and drink firms have remained “behind the curve” on diversity and inclusion in the workplace, despite recent improvements across the industry, according to a new report.

The new Diversity in Food and Grocery ​report drew on data captured from over 200 companies and conversations with more than 100 chairs, CEOs and HR directors. It was carried out by research and training charity IGD and executive search firm The MBS Group, in association with PwC.

Although the vast majority (84%) of companies in the food and grocery industry believed they were performing better today than five years ago, fewer than half (45%) of businesses have adopted a co-ordinated strategy on the topic, the report revealed.

And despite a genuine desire to do more across the industry, there was a reluctance to talk more openly about diversity and inclusion, in case businesses were seen to be behind other industries.

Gender pay gap

The study found that the median gender pay gap within the food and grocery industry was lower than the UK economy as a whole (6.8% versus 9.6%). However, fewer than 10% of companies surveyed were prepared for ethnicity pay gap reporting if it were introduced in the coming years.

On gender, an average of 27.6% of board roles were occupied by women. At executive committee level, this dropped to 22.2%, while 35.9% of direct reports (into the executive committee) were women.

Compared with the latest Hampton-Alexander Review figures, food and grocery was ahead of the FTSE 350 cross-industry average at the executive committee and direct reports levels, although it was deemed unlikely to reach the Hampton-Alexander target of 33% women by the end of 2020.

At 11.4%, the percentage of board members in the food and grocery industry from a BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] background was very close to reflecting the UK working age population at large (12.5%).

Some 5.7% of executive committee members and 7.1% of direct reports were BAME. Most companies did not collect complete data around ethnic diversity, however.


When asked to consider their wider senior leadership teams, 27% of interviewees were able to identify an openly LGTBQ [lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and queer] leader within their businesses.

As most companies do not collect data on LGTBQ, it proved difficult to measure how accurately the food and grocery industry workforce reflected wider society. The most common approach to the LGTBQ agenda was to focus on promoting an inclusive working environment, often by working with outside not-for-profit organisations, according to the report.

Studies have shown that more diverse and inclusive workplaces have a higher level of employee engagement, are more productive and are more profitable​,” said Susan Barratt, CEO of IGD.

The response and interest in this project from across our industry has been fantastic; there’s no doubt much is happening at an individual business level as well as collaboratively. However, this research also clearly demonstrates there is a need – and an appetite – to do a lot more​.”

The full report can be viewed here.



Related topics: People & Skills

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