2 sisters factory

The research for Meat Business Women also found that women made up just 36% of the total meat industry workforce 

The lack of gender diversity across the meat sector has been laid bare after new research for industry group Meat Business Women revealed just 5% of CEO positions were held by women.

The independent research drew on survey data from 60 Companies with a combined total of 50,000 employees in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the US, in addition to a series of industry focus groups. It also revealed that women made up just 36% of the total meat industry’s workforce in these markets, while just 14% of board-level positions were held by women.

The findings showed “just how much the meat industry is lagging behind other sectors, including grocery, when it comes to creating workplaces that attract and promote female talent”, said MBW founder Laura Ryan.

A report into the research also identified several ‘broken rungs’ in the career ladder that prevent women in the meat sector from advancing to more senior roles. It suggested women found it easier to pursue careers in marketing, finance, HR, R&D and quality fields. However, those disciplines still rarely acted as “stepping stones into the most senior positions”, MBW said.

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Not enough gender representation was putting at risk the future success and sustainability of the meat sector and the research “should be a wake-up call” for the industry, Ryan added.

It also meant the meat supply chain was “failing to reap the rewards that come from creating and nurturing a diverse workforce”, she claimed.

“It’s been asserted that companies which have executive committees with female membership of at least 33% have a net profit margin over 10 times greater than those companies with no women at that level,” said Ryan. “Fundamentally businesses with diverse workforces are more profitable and have better share prices”.

The new report also highlighted a lack of formalised mentoring, networking opportunities and senior female role models as “a particular source of frustration for women in the sector”, and by having relatively low numbers of women in senior roles the meat industry gave the impression “that leadership positions are either not available or not suited to women”.

Ryan said: “The message we’re hearing from women in the meat industry is loud and clear: they love the sector, they’re excited about the opportunities it offers and they want to help it succeed, but certain barriers exist.”

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