Although advancements have been made throughout the CPG industry when it comes to female leadership, the fact is that there are still far fewer than 50% representation in the higher echelons of CPG leadership. In fact, one recent study indicates that less than 25% of executive leadership positions in CPG are held by women.
Another microcosm of this leadership issue is represented by the Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful Women. Of the 100 on the list, just two represent CPG brands.
While reasons for this discrepancy are varied, it is important to examine why there are fewer female executives in the CPG sector.
Women’s Leadership Skills Are Undervalued
Women are frequently found to rank higher in key leadership skills including compassion and creativity. Unfortunately, when women demonstrate the assertive qualities necessary to be a good leader, they are often held to double standards, earning the title of “bossy” or “too aggressive” where their male counterparts are praised. While compassion is undervalued, assertiveness in women is frowned upon and this combination of issues can lead to fewer women pursuing and excelling in leadership positions. CPG recruiters can play a major role in finding applicants who exhibit important leadership skills regardless of their gender.
Insufficient Talent Development
One of the best ways to increase female representation at the executive level is to train and promote from within an organization. Despite working with talented CPG recruiters, many CPG companies do not have strong systems in place designed to encourage women through the leadership pipeline. Unfortunately, this can often mean that younger employees forced to find their own way and overcome obstacles that are all but insurmountable. As a young female employee, it is much more difficult to overcome the bias that exists within the corporate structure. Left frustrated, these promising employees may leave before they are able to take their place in the leadership chain.
To this end, CPG companies would do well to specifically target promising female employees, particularly millennial women who are more likely to pursue leadership positions, with training, mentoring, and opportunities.
Lack of Male Participation
While many female executives do take it upon themselves to increase female leadership opportunities for those around them, they cannot and should not be expected to do it on their own. Rather, existing male leadership needs to be engaged as partners in the quest for equality. Whether this takes the shape of a ‘reverse mentorship’ program such as that instituted by IBM or other female focused training opportunities, both men and women need to be active in pursuing a more balanced executive team. A lack of support from male executives can certainly be a roadblock to finding and training more skilled female executives.
Achieving equality goes beyond the optics of equality. Companies that have better parity on the executive level have better success rates overall and are better trusted by consumers. In the CPG sector, especially, the majority of target consumers are women and female executives can help to better address key concerns of the demographic, helping the company to grow and thrive.