Shopkeepers have called on suppliers, symbol groups and trade press to better promote female store owners who are often under-represented, underpaid and underappreciated.

Female shopkeepers interviewed by Retail Express identified a wide range of factors that led to inequality, including parental gender bias, childcare issues, a lack of industry support and mistreatment within the industry.

Others said that women played a “silent” role – managing family stores but kept at home at meetings and events. While many said they were treated fairly most of the time, more than half of all those interviewed said they had experienced sexism from industry colleagues.

Research by the ACS shows that despite two in three shop staff being women, just one in three shop owners are women. Newly released gender pay gap documents also revealed a stark imbalance between average pay for men and women in the convenience channel. In several instances women are paid on average over a third less than men working at the same company.

Michelle Gravelle from Gravelle’s Budgens in Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire said: “There are occasions where suppliers and reps assume that you don’t have any decision-making power and will not talk to you.

“You have to be assertive and often you have to fight a lot more if you are a woman, and you have to push yourself more if you are a woman.”

Sunita Kanji from Little Hulton Family Shopper in Manchester agreed, stating: “It’s time for women to speak up and get out there.”

Jessica Nandhra, who took over her father’s Loco Carlos store in Leeds with her sister Sarah, said not all daughters of shop owners are given this opportunity. “A lot of fathers pass the businesses over to their sons because they don’t think their daughters either can do it or should be doing it,” she said.

Retail Express asked every major symbol group to outline its plans to recruit and support women shopkeepers. However, only Nisa was able to provide this information.

Nisa sales director Steve Leach told Retail Express: “We’ve got a good balance but there’s definitely more to do. We’ll be working on testimonials and highlighting the great women owners, retailers and Nisa members we’ve got.”

At the current rate of progress it will take until 2048 for equal representation in convenience shop owners. Elit Rowland, founder of Women in Wholesale, said the industry is likely to miss out if it doesn’t adapt faster. Rowland said: “The key differentiator for wholesalers and convenience retailers are people. Supporting a better diversity of talent at the top is a critical part of that.”

Samantha Coldbeck, owner of Wharfdale Premier in Hull, said the industry is moving in the right direction. She said: “It has come a long way in the past five years. We have fantastic women role models like NFRN president Linda Sood. I hope it continues as I’d love to see more women in convenience.”

The NFRN national president said female retailers need to be bold and unafraid to ask questions. “There are more opportunities for women in this industry,” Sood said.

Do it: Read more on the gender pay gap within convenience retail and wholesale