Boardroom pixabay

The Grocer has long been deliberating whether to run a Women’s Power List. Would it be too reductive to single out 10 top women? Or should we shine a spotlight on the many powerful female leaders in food and drink, and the progress they represent?

In the end, the latter argument won out. And now feels like a particularly opportune time to run our women’s power list, as fresh female talent rises to the top. While many of our power list are long-standing leaders – such as Alessandra Bellini, who has played a pivotal role in the turnaround of Tesco – there are also several recent top appointments. Take Shirine Khoury-Haq, who was named interim Co-op CEO last week – and is tipped to fill the role on a permanent basis – and Roisin Currie, who will officially take the reins at Greggs in May.

It’s a sign things are moving in the right direction, even if there remain challenges in gender equality (pay is still not on an equal footing and board representation is lacking in certain corners). Part of this progress has been down to long-standing, persistent efforts in the industry. While companies have been looking at how to make workplaces more inclusive, groups such as The Grocery Girls and Women in Wholesale have helped women network and further their careers.

Arguably, though, the turmoil of the past two years has forced an acceleration of these efforts. In the wake of Covid, companies are adopting more flexible working policies as standard. As labour shortages have hit home, businesses have realised the need to attract a broader range of talent. That’s resulted in a change in recruitment strategies not only at the likes of CCEP and P&G, but in heavily male-dominated fields such as logistics.

That women could be part of the solution to the HGV crisis highlights that diversity is far more than a nebulous aim. And even if women aren’t solving labour shortages, it’s been proven that more diverse boards and companies tend to reach better decisions. So making the industry more equal isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s a proven commercial advantage.