Hello Inner Circle readers!

I came a cross a great article in the Harvard Business Review last week that pertained so deeply to our group that I thought I would summarize it here. Titled “12 Ways to Help Women in Retail Advance Into Management,” the premise of the article is that few retail companies know how to best support and grow their female talent.

The article, written by three researchers at FSG, a global social-impact consulting firm, pointed out that even though women comprise half the workforce, they’re overrepresented in front-line positions and consistently underrepresented in higher-paying management roles. The article discussed research FSG and its partners did to better understand how retailers can counteract this trend and make the most of female talent. Furthermore, it identified “12 actionable practices that can help companies move from commitment to action on gender equity.” They include the following, in three buckets:

Leadership Commitment and Accountability

  • Create diversity task forces to communicate and lead a company’s diversity priorities.
  • Hire a chief diversity officer, a senior or executive-level person that carries forward the company’s diversity priorities.
  • Add diversity and inclusion metrics in performance reviews.

Company Policies and Practices

  • Incorporate fixed and flexible scheduling policies (e.g., compressed work schedules and flex time) so employees know their schedules ahead of time and can have flexibility in arriving and leaving within a set period of time.
  • Implement employee assistance programs that connect employees to external resources (e.g., child care, health care) through resource navigators, on-site or through “hotlines.”
  • Create dependent care expense accounts in which employees can deposit pre-tax earnings to pay for dependent care expenses.
  • Implement a sexual harassment training program.
  • Implement a diversity training program.
  • Offer paid sick leave.

Career Development Opportunities

  • Offer formal mentoring programs through which leaders and protégés volunteer to participate and are matched with people across departments who are at least two levels apart.
  • Offer professional development opportunities to help employees develop strong leadership and people management skills.
  • Offer formal job training for specific roles that provides initial (quickly following an individual’s hiring) or continuous (throughout an individual’s time in a role) skills building.

According to the article, each practice has been proven to be effective in advancing women to management roles, and companies that are most successful at retaining, engaging and advancing women employ practices across all three areas.

Yet, these practices aren’t widely implemented, especially in retail organizations. Less than half of the 79 companies in the study were using even one of the evidence-based practices to support women in front-line roles in stores, while implementation in headquarter offices was more widespread. Why the difference? According to the article, most companies didn’t implement these practices in field operations because they lacked a clear business case for investing in women’s early professional development.

What are your thoughts on these findings? Do you believe that investing in the women in your workforce, particularly at lower levels, pays off in clear and tangible results? Is your company doing anything to facilitate this? Is it doing anything to help and support women move up the leadership pipeline? If so, let me know by dropping me a note at mcampanelli@napco.com. Or please just check out the article (here is the link again). I think you’ll find it thought provoking and well worth your time!

Melissa Campanelli
Women in Retail Leadership Circle

P.S. Don’t forget to register for the Women in Retail Leadership Summit, taking place at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne in sunny Miami, April 29-May 1. We’re adding new speakers and content each day! Check out the speaker list here!

I can’t wait to see you in Miami!