Although women occupy 60% of retail jobs, the industry is a man’s game. Statistically, women in retail earn less than men, are employed in less senior positions than men and work in less profitable outlets than men.
Let’s look at the sector. Most people, if questioned, would identify women with retail. Typically, women are more likely to enjoy a retail environment than men, with men boring of shopping after 26 minutes and women taking a full two hours to tire. In most households, the female will decide on what is to be bought with the budget; outside of that women influence some 80% of all consumer purchase decisions.
Retail is a multi-billion pound economic force that depends predominantly on woman as its customer base. Its market research strives to understand and oblige these women as its target audience. So, with this strong linkage between the female and the sector, surely women would dominate retail roles?
Wrong. By and large, retail companies are ran by people who can’t claim to have walked a mile in a woman’s shoes. Despite the 60:40 job ratio, despite the fact that more women than men start their graduate careers in retail, despite the increased interest and monopoly on the domain, despite all expectations, precious few women actually make it into top retail jobs.
Reports show that just 13% of women hold management retail jobs, compared to 25% of men. Even more startling, a mere 5% of women are chief executives within the industry. When it comes to retail, it seems that women are welcome on the shop floor but not in the boardroom.
So how has this retail gender gap happened?
In truth, there’s no definitive answer. Some studies have noted that men tend to have dominion on the sale of higher-priced items that earn higher commissions. More findings show that men are likely to work in high-profile outlets as opposed to smaller retailers with less traffic. This will undoubtedly contribute to the fact that women in retail jobs have to work 103 extra days a year to make as much money as men.
Another difficulty is the steep climb that women face to succeed in the industry. With such a lack of female role models in senior positions, it’s fair to say that women have to break the mould to land the most exclusive retail jobs.
There’s also the fact that a lot of jobs in retail demand long hours, weekend and evening work, and often the requirement to move outlets to progress. As family commitments typically fall to women, it can be harder to compete against men without making sacrifices.
That shouldn’t be enough to prevent women getting ahead in retail jobs. Are retail jobs really sexist? All evidence suggests that yes, they are. But if ambitious women remember that power is taken, not given, we fully believe that the retail game can be changed.