Independent retailers are calling for urgent improved education across the supply chain to crackdown on gender discrimination in convenience.
Last week, over 50 retailers and suppliers came together for the inaugural Women in Convenience event in Birmingham, launched by Newtrade Media.
In a survey carried out earlier this year, three quarters (76%) of women said they were not being treated equally in the sector. As a result, 21% do not feel comfortable attending events on their own, with 16% claiming they’d like to, but don’t because of this. A further 17% went on to reveal they don’t even get invited.
Over half (55%) said they have experienced harassment or abuse from customers or colleagues in retail, with just under half (49%) undergoing challenges in juggling work with childcare or maternity leave and 39.5% struggling with the male-dominated workplace culture.
When asked what needed to be done to raise the profile of women in convenience, 55% said they’d like to see more events promoting them, and 33% would like a significant focus on female issues and achievements at events.
In a panel discussion aimed at tackling inequality and empowering female in a male-centric sector, five retailers shared their experiences of discrimination and outlined what action must be taken.
Shumaila Malik, who runs a Costcutter in Manchester, alongside her husband, said reps often assume she is one of the staff, and not a decision maker. “A lot of times when we are visited by reps they ask me where the boss is if I’m behind the counter,” she explained. “Once when I told one I was the person they needed to speak to, they were surprised and said, ‘you don’t often see many women behind the till making decisions’.”
Trudy Davies, owner of Woosnam & Davies in Llanidloes added she has experienced similar incidents when visiting banks. “When I went to see a bank manager about funding, he told me, ‘women aren’t known to be good with money’ and another told me I should bring my husband next time.”
Malik stressed that more education is needed across the supply chain in order to change these ingrained stereotypes. “Every supplier shouldn’t be assuming the woman isn’t in charge,” she said. “Their language and approach needs changing.”
Davies stressed: “Suppliers need to keep a record of who the decision maker is and referring to this before they enter a shop. Women should be given a place at the table, too.”
Natalie Lightfoot, owner of Londis Solo Convenience Store in Glasgow went to on to express a desire to attend more industry events, but is put off after being shunned by other male retailers.
“I’ve ended up leaving an event before because a male retailer who I’d spoken to before and knew pretended to not know me,” she said. “I don’t want to be asked something just because I’m a women, instead I want my ideas to be actually listened to because I’m a retailer.”
Davies reinforced the importance of shining a light on the discrimination being felt by women in convenience. “It’s good to finally talk about these things,” she said. “We have to make it better for the future.”