How can the retail industry address gender inequality?


Four businesswomen on Wednesday discussed ways to increase gender diversity at The Retail Summit in Dubai.

The event is taking place at The Atlantis, The Palm, until March 15.

During a session titled ‘What Women Want: Driving Gender Diversity In Retail’, the panellists said that diversity has become even more important topic in today’s world.

Erim Kaur, founder of luxury haircare brand ByErim said: “Women’s representation in retail is key because many women do not know much about running a business, and what opportunities can arise from it.”

Beauty technology entrepreneur Tara Lalvani said: “We need more women in retail to understand what female consumers wish to buy.”

“If we do not address it [the issue of gender diversity in retail] now, it will continue to be an ongoing problem. We need to do it for the next generation,” said Jamila Saidi, head of digital commerce for retail and luxury at the UK’s Department for International Trade.

They also said that diversity makes business sense, because women make up half of the world. Ignoring such a key demographic will not bode well for businesses.

How can we empower women?

Ms Saidi added that showcasing female entrepreneurs will help inspire other women to start their own businesses.

“Getting women up the ladder, showcasing what female leaders around the world are doing, providing practical support, mentoring, coaching, and helping them make connections”, are all key aspects of empowering women, Ms Saidi said.

Mónica San José, VP for EMEA sales at Kontoor Brands said: “We need to recruit the best female talent there is out there.”

Ms José said that the retail industry needs to promote more women in leadership positions.

“65 per cent of Amazon Europe’s consumers are women, they buy for themselves and for their male relatives and friends.”

This highlights that women should also be at the top leadership positions.

Ms José believes strongly in gender equality, and her company’s staff consists of 50 per cent women.

“Companies have a social responsibility so they have to take gender equality seriously.”

Ms Lalvani also said that many millennial women suffer from a lack from confidence.

She added that there are not enough women in business to inspire others, which contributes to the underconfidence.

“We need to inspire them”, she said.

Employers need to be flexible

Ms Saidi added that because the responsibility of childcare often falls on women, employers need to be understanding and allow for flexible work schedules.

“Employers should be able to understand when circumstances change. This ultimately helps the business because the employee would work harder than they normally would.”

Ms José added that women should feel like they are of value to the company, and that they are helping grow the business.

“As a manager, I don’t wish to micromanage my employees. We should support them when they are struggling and trust them.”

Adding that technology is helping address the gender divide, Ms Saidi said that women should take advantage of e-commerce.

“Women do not even need to stick to selling in their own countries. Thanks to e-commerce, they can go global. This is absolutely empowering.”

“I would love to see more women scaling and growing their business.”