LGBTQ+ representation increases but inclusion remains a challenge for UK retailers

This is an image of a diverse corporate boardroom

Despite relative progress in diversity, a new report highlights that the many British retailers still have mainly white boardroom members and inclusion is still a tough “nut to crack”.

Published by the British Retail Consortium, the 2024 Diversity and Inclusion in UK Retail Report revealed that despite dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), 35 per cent of British retailers still have an all-white boardroom and more than half lack any ethnic diversity on executive committees.

However, the report does paint a picture of progress, not least for queer members of staff: 67 per cent of retailers now have at least one queer person in a leadership role.

Meanwhile, the number of women in the boardroom have jumped from 32 per cent in 2021 to 42 per cent in 2024, while ethnic-minority representation has risen from 4.5 to 12 per cent.

On the flip side, the report highlights the lack of role models for disabled employees with only 11 per cent of companies having a disabled senior leader, down from 17 per cent in 2023.

Pinpoint policies towards trans inclusion and social mobility

UK retailers are choosing to ignore recent comments from equalities minister Kemi Badenoch – who believes DEI initiatives “divide, rather than unify” – with 98 per cent having a co-ordinated strategy towards such campaigns and policy.

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And eighty-eight per cent of companies have LGBTQ+ initiatives woven into their DEI strategy, with specific initiatives dedicated to the experience of trans and non-binary employees.

The report points out some respondents mentioning that launching trans-inclusive activities is a strong symbol of support to the wider LGBTQ+ community.

Inclusion is ‘nut the industry still needs to crack’

There is still much work to be done, however.

The UK retail sector has an estimated 3.5 million employees, with most working at store level and many feeling a lack of inclusion.

Those feelings are most prominent among those who chose “other” or “prefer not to say” when it comes to their sexual orientation, Black/African/Caribbean employees, and those aged between 25 and 34.

The chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson, said: “I am proud to see the strides retailers have made in three years to improve diversity, especially at a time when D&I could easily have been relegated to the side lines in the face of a turbulent economic backdrop.

“But inclusion is the nut the industry still needs to crack. The progress made on diversity will only be meaningful and effective when it happens in tandem with a workforce where every employee feels happy and included.”

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