A new international report has for the first time established how many women are working within the meat sector.
It found that women make up only 36% of the meat industry workforce and are under-represented at every level above junior positions, holding just 14% of board-level director roles and just 5% of chief executive roles.
The independent report, commissioned by Meat Business Women, also identified several "broken rungs" in the career ladder that prevent women in the meat sector from advancing to more senior roles.
It suggests women find it easier to pursue careers in marketing, finance, HR, R&D and quality fields – however, those disciplines still rarely act as stepping stones into the most senior positions.
Meat Business Women founder Laura Ryan says a lack of gender representation is putting at risk the future success and sustainability of the meat sector.
This report should be a wake-up call for the meat sector. Our findings show just how much the meat industry is lagging behind other sectors, including grocery, when it comes to creating workplaces that attract and promote female talent.
"In doing so, it is failing to reap the rewards that come from creating and nurturing a diverse workforce."
Net Profit Margins
It’s been asserted that companies which have executive committees with female membership of at least 33% have a net profit margin over 10 times greater than those companies with no women at that level. Fundamentally, businesses with diverse workforces are more profitable and have better share prices.
The new report, which draws on survey data from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the US, highlights that the lack of formalised mentoring, networking opportunities and senior female role models is a particular source of frustration for women in the sector.
The report finds that visible role models who lead in an aspirational way help attract and retain talent within an organisation.
The report flags though that by having relatively low numbers of women in senior roles the meat industry gives the impression that leadership positions are either not available or not suited to women.
'The message is loud and clear'
The message we’re hearing from women in the meat industry is loud and clear: They love the sector, they’re excited about the opportunities it offers and they want to help it succeed, but certain barriers exist. Together, industry and Meat Business Women can break those barriers down.
"The good news from our research is that there are lots of practical steps companies can take to improve gender representation and ensure female talent can thrive.
"It is our hope that the sector uses the insights from this report to better understand how it can create a diverse and inclusive workforce.
"Meat Business Women is already partnering with a significant number of organisations towards that goal."
Meat Business Women intends to use the findings of this report to continue its support of the meat industry through a portfolio of initiatives such as mentoring programmes, networking events, development toolkits and other resources.