CBA report: ‘More female executives, more success’

LaunaInmanCommonwealth Bank has tabled a clear correlation between the percentage of female executives in a retail business and its success across metrics including business confidence, personalisation and customer experience.

The assertion is one of the key takeaways from the CBA’s recent Retail Insights Report, based on a quantitative survey conducted by ACA Research. A total of 382 surveys of senior retail business decision makers were conducted between February and March in compiling the report. Respondents were from businesses of all sizes from across all states and major retail sub-sectors with survey responses anonymous.

According to the report, retailers that provide an ‘extremely good customer experience’ have gender balance within leadership teams and boards, with an average of 47 per cent female executives; compared to 35 per cent female representation for businesses rated with ‘poor customer experience’.

Female executives placed a higher importance on customer experience, with retailers that have three-quarters or more female executives also more likely to see personalisation as important within customer experience strategies, the research found.

Business confidence was found to be significantly higher for retailers with a higher female contingent in executive roles.

Businesses with a female executive team comprised of 75 per cent female members, had 30 per cent expect business conditions to improve, compared with 16 per cent for those with no female executives.

CBA rated the retail industry among the top performers for gender balance in leadership positions. Retailers, on average, employ 41 per cent females in executive roles, in comparison to the 23.3 per cent average for Australia’s top 2000 companies.

This was mitigated at larger retailers, however, with the report finding one in two leaders in businesses turning over less than $1 million is a woman; lowering to 31 per cent at companies with a turnover of $500 million or more.

Speaking to Inside Retail Weekly, Jerry Macey, national manager, retail at CBA, said the data results highlighted that female executives prioritise customer experience.

“We simply asked retailers what they are prioritising, and then saw that when we sorted the data by gender there was a clear correlation for organisations with a majority female executive to prioritise customer experience.

Macey said retail was ahead of other industries when it came to offering opportunities for female executives.

Launa Inman, as a non-executive director of CBA and former CEO and MD of Billabong, Target and Officeworks, said the research findings were indicative of her experience in the industry.

“Other than Sally McDonald [at Big W], there isn’t a single woman running a large retail brand in Australia,” said Inman.

“I believe there is an unconscious bias. It’s hard to believe there are so many good women in lower ranks, but that there’s no-one suitable to run the company.

“Most consumers are women. If you have women involved at a senior level, they have a better idea of what consumers want. They understand how people shop.”

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