Women in Wholesale: Inspire, support, and progress

Women in Wholesale Report Launch
Women in Wholesale Report Launch

Did you know that there are more people called Dave running FTSE 100 companies than women? How about that the gender pay gap in the UK will not be closed until 2078 if we continue at the rate we are going now? And did you also know that companies that operate with a gender balance are more profitable?

These were some of the facts that were shared at the Women in Wholesale (WiW) report launch on 26 April. Founded by Elit Rowland, the head of communications at JJ Food Service and director at New ERA PR, the thought-provoking event and report were created to “support the development and progress of women in wholesale, regardless of rank”, and to empower women in the wholesale industry through educational networking events.

Following on from the success of the WiW Conference last year, Rowland explained: “Our conference established some valuable insight, and the next step is to take action. Our report will set out goals and benchmarks to offer businesses the tools they need to move forward.”

Traditionally, the wholesale industry has been very much “an old boys’ network”, with only 11% of women in wholesale working in senior management positions. More alarmingly, 24% of people in the sector believe that their companies weren’t doing enough to support gender parity, with 48% having faced gender discrimination.

These statistics, which were presented at the report launch by Him! MD Jill Livesey, indicate an urgent need for more opportunities for women to take on leadership positions within the industry, thus lighting the fuel to champion events like these.

Other statistics, based on a live poll conducted at the WiW 2016 Conference, showed that the biggest area of work that women needed support with was personal career development (51%), in addition to 81% believing that gender diversity was a larger issue within the wholesale sector than compared to other grocery and retailer industries.

Naturally, work culture took precedent as the report’s hot topic, as Hazel Detsiny, MD at Unilever Food Solutions UK & Ireland, led a fiery discussion on the ways in which companies should be championing women. She stressed that by providing women the necessary tools and support, they could flourish to be the best version of themselves.

Detsiny suggested that simple measures such as changing terms on job adverts from ‘he’ to ‘they’ and actively promoting a safe working environment should be physically implemented to attract women to pursuing careers in wholesale.

This in turn, she said, would encourage women to stay for the long-term. “We should measure employee output, not input, and encourage people to work from home and give them the tech to do it,” she noted. Detsiny finished with the rallying cry: “Know your worth, women!”

Considering that numerous studies prove that having a gender balanced work place generates larger profits, companies should take into account factors such as having children could impact a woman’s choice to return to work after maternity leave, so support – such as giving women the option to work at home if needs be – is absolutely necessary should you want to attract and secure female talent.

As Rowland concluded at the end of the event: “This is not just a woman thing, it’s a business thing.”

Six key themes explored at the WiW Report Launch:

  1. Career paths: 43% of women in wholesale said that personal career development was their biggest challenge
  2. Flexible working: 52% of women in wholesale said that a lack of flexible working options was holding them back from progressing
  3. Company culture: 34% of women in wholesale said they need support to feel motivated and inspired at work
  4. Mentoring & sponsorship: 61% of women in business said that lack of mentorship is a key barrier to progress
  5. Measuring progress: 71% of women in wholesale said no to having gender quotas but do support working towards general goals
  6. Networking & education: 40% of women said that WiW was their first wholesale conference



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