Odgers Berndtson, the global executive search firm, said the companies that have signed up represent 70,000 employees across the UK.
KP Snacks, Birds Eye, Müller and Cereal Partners are among the first UK manufacturers to have already pledged their backing to provide mentors and mentees to participate in the Accelerate Mentoring Programme this year.
The aim of the programme is to promote and improve the gender balance of boards across companies in the food and drink industry by accelerating the development of female and non-binary senior managers and executives.
Odgers Berndtson said that currently they account for just 28% of board roles.
“More affirmative action is needed to accelerate the progression of senior female managers to board and top-level roles in the food and drink sector,” said Nick Claridge, partner at Odgers Berndtson.
“In our otherwise dynamic industry, it is taking too long to achieve a better gender balance. We’re confident this practical mentoring and high-level support will help many more women reach the very top.”
Dame Fiona Kendrick, former CEO and chairman of Nestlé UK, said: “The Accelerate Mentoring Programme is close to my heart due to the help and support I received from sponsors and mentors who had a fantastic impact on my career. In my discussions with emerging female leaders, I am constantly reminded how important these informal support networks can be.”
The Accelerate Mentoring Programme is the most recent of a number of sector-wide mentoring schemes to help senior women progress to board level roles introduced by Odgers Berndtson in the past 18 months. Most recently the firm introduced, Rebus, a mentoring initiative to support senior women across the technology sector in the UK, backed by over 70 major employers including BT, Google, and Sage.
The Accelerate Mentoring Programme launches officially at an event in London on 25 March, where further potential mentors and mentees will be invited to participate and discuss details of the scheme in the first year.
Challenges facing aspiring candidates will be examined at the launch in a panel discussion, hosted by Monica Relph, client solutions consultant at Lane4 Management Group.
Gharry Eccles, vice president UK & Australia of Cereal Partners, Elaine Birchall, chief executive officer of SHS Group, Julie Baker, vice president UK & Ireland of Hilton Hotels and Jenn Barnett, head of Inclusion, Diversity & Wellbeing at Grant Thornton UK LLP will be on the panel.