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According to Equileap’s Gender Equality Global Report for 2023, women in top leadership positions across the world are still very rare. A minority of 6% of companies globally have a female CEO, 15% have a female CFO, and 8% have a female chair of the board. In the UK, women’s representation on executive teams saw a notable increase from 20% in 2022 to 25% in 2023. Still, just 19% of executive teams (40) have reached a gender balance.
In spite of the inequity in business, there are many female entrepreneurs changing the landscape of the food industry. So, this International Women’s Day 2023, we asked three businesswomen to tell their stories…
Cathy Moseley, founder of Boundless Activated Snacking
Although I love to be the eternal optimist, sometimes this is tough; especially as a female founder. Being female-founded, no matter what industry you are in, is a far harder feat. It is harder to raise investment, harder to balance childcare, harder to be listened to in a board room etc. I wouldn’t see being a female founder in the food and drink industry as a list of pros and cons, because looking at things this way it is easy to feel defeated. Instead, I see it like any entrepreneur who is heading up a startup: you need to be focused, be clear about what you are delivering to the consumer, know your cash flow and be determined to run harder and faster than the people you are up against.
Building a better future
The biggest pro, in my opinion? You will know your customer far better than anyone, because you are them! I believe women found businesses based on a gap – a need- they find themselves facing. My story was never meant to take the journey it did, I simply wanted to make snacks for myself that wouldn’t irritate my gut! When a personal story is your driving force, you will be far more determined to succeed, so that in future they won’t find themselves in the situation you were in.
We are still not living in a day and age where we’re on a level playing field. What we are building, however, is awareness. Retailers have a chance to pave the way towards a fairer future as their flexibility and purchasing powers puts them in a better position to put us on the shelf. This is as opposed to large corporations that need larger brands with even larger pockets to fill their retail space – whom are, for the most part, run by men. Supporting female and BAME businesses gives us a chance to get on the shelf and change the status quo!
Driving for success
Focus – know where you are going and why, don’t be too proud to take advice and make sure you hire good people. I didn’t have the same opportunities growing up that many other founders I’ve met on my journey have had. There was no private school and no financial support from my family; I left school and home at 16 to fend for myself and this was as big a driving force as I could get. As the only female trader in a dealing room of 600 men, 20+ years their junior, I’m used to not fitting in – to defeating the odds and rejecting what society tells me I’m capable of. I think most of them thought I was there to do the coffee run! That same fire is still in me now, it won’t ever leave me.
Jasmine Kharod, co-founder of Wild Chai
The food and drink industry is full of amazing innovators! It provides a space where we connect with other like-minded individuals, share experiences, and learn from others who have faced similar challenges and wins in the industry.
Addressing the gender gap
Unfortunately, gender bias is still a significant issue in the industry. We have faced challenges in gaining access to key networks and resources, and struggle at times being taken seriously by partners, suppliers and customers. The truth is despite the world changing in a positive direction we are still far behind in ensuring women are represented in business and leadership positions. When our voices are not heard and female representation is neglected, it not only makes it difficult to find role models or mentors who have faced similar challenges but it means the wider audiences that deserve representation are left behind.
Female and BAME entrepreneurs often face barriers when entering the industry. By supporting these businesses, independent retailers can help to address the inequalities and create a more level playing field. This can also help to create a more inclusive and representative business environment that better reflects the needs and preferences of customers from diverse backgrounds. Customers are increasingly seeking out businesses that reflect their values and priorities, by supporting female and BAME businesses in the industry, independent retailers can tap into this demand and differentiate themselves from competitors.
We often bring unique perspectives and authentic ideas to the table. By supporting these businesses, independent retailers can help to encourage entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity in the industry, which can ultimately benefit all players in the market. You bring hope to the industry for those females who dream of having their own business.
Striving for a positive impact
We have an innate passion for cooking and experimenting with new flavours and sharing our culinary creations with others. Being a third generation Indian in the UK, it becomes even more important to preserve our culture, and we feel a sense of duty to ensure we educate, share and translate our traditions and culture authentically to the western world and one of the ways we do this is through our company Wild Chai.
The food and drinks industry has many opportunities to make a positive impact on the world, from promoting sustainability and responsible sourcing practices to supporting local farmers and communities. As a wellness chai company, we want to make a social impact when it comes to health and educating communities, especially on the impacts of consuming beverages that are not transparent about their ingredients or practices. We feel it’s important creating a brand that cares and remains transparent.
Freya Twigden, founder of Fix8 Kombucha
It feels like a really exciting time to be a woman in food! It’s a supportive industry – and us girls really seem to have eachothers back. There is so much positive talk about being a female founder, IWD is an example of that – and it helps! For example, I’m thrilled to be part of Planet Organic’s ‘Women in food’ celebration this month across their stores. It really helps build awareness of our brands.
Women at the top
The only con is that you can’t be what you can’t see! More women at the top will be important, to inspire the next generation of upcoming leaders. This is especially true when it comes to the world of finance, VC’s and investing, there’s still a lot of work to be done to level the playing field.
By retailers supporting female and BAME businesses – it (by default) allows consumers the chance to support as well. Retailers are the key link in this growth chain. It’s a positive multiplier effect.
I absolutely love this industry. It’s a fast-changing, lively and passionate industry to be in. I’m led by a mission to improve the gut-health of consumers one sip at a time. After decades of food becoming more convenient and as a result processed - we’re starting to suffer the consequences when it comes to our gut-health and microbial diversity in particular. It feels exciting to be creating exciting gut-health drinks to address these issues.