Veteran retailer George Davies has called for more women to be appointed to top jobs in British fashion.
Mr Davies, founder of clothing retailer Next and behind the George at Asda label, says more needs to be done to promote them to director level.
Women “have more vision than men” and their promotion would help boost firms, he told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours.
Campaigners Women in Retail welcomed his call, saying retail was often still a “boys’ club”.
Research published earlier this year, by the group, found that while 60 per cent of those employed in the retail industry are women and 85 per cent of all retail purchases are made or influenced by women, only 20 per cent of executive teams and 10 per cent of executive boards are female.
“If there was better representation of them in executive teams maybe the high street wouldn’t be struggling as much as it is,” Mr Davies, 75 and born in Crosby, Merseyside, said.
Also renowned for creating the successful Per Una fashion brand in 2001 and helping to turn round Marks and Spencer’s fortunes, he said he has always “surrounded himself with women” at work.
Within three years Per Una was creating an annual turnover in excess of £230 million, which at the time was over 10% of the brand’s women’s wear sales.
The board on Mr Davies’s FG4 clothing label is made up of 51 women and 19 men, a 67%-33% split.
“[Women] work quicker and harder than men,” he said. “The retail industry needs people who visit stores and understand customers and that’s why I think the gender mix on executive boards should be at least equal.”
Fiona Davis, Women in Retail’s director, said their research involved interviews with employees at 44 UK-based retailers to assess why there are so few women in key positions.
‘Walk in customers’ shoes’
The results suggested retail was often perceived as a “boys’ club”, she said, that women lacked confidence when applying for top jobs and that there was a lack of provision for flexible working.
“Retailers are missing an opportunity to maximise their talent pool. They need to walk in the shoes of their customers and they’re not doing that without the right gender balance in their board rooms,” Ms Davissaid.
Since 2011, Mr Davies has been opening outlets in the United Arab Emirates and in Saudi Arabia. With FG4, he has opened 100 stores – a further 26 will open in February.
“I always say about men, when it comes to fashion they can be as trendy as hell until they’re 20 years old but as soon as they’re 30 they dress like their dads – that’s why retail is struggling,” he added.