Aardvark Swift’s Hannah Goodwin looks at ten of the biggest UK toy companies the firm works with to see how many women have made it into director/board level roles.

Blazing a trail for gender equality

Gender equality is a hot topic at the moment in all industries. So, here at Aardvark Swift we wanted to know how the UK toy industry measures up.

Looking at ten of the biggest UK toy companies we work with, we assessed how many women have made it into director/board level roles across sales, marketing, finance and general management.

Our research was carried out using a combination of data gathered from our recruitment activities, added to LinkedIn and also some direct calls to companies to fill in as many blanks as possible.

It shows that across the companies surveyed, there are 86 men employed as directors and vice presidents, compared to 52 women in the same roles.

Breaking this down further, we also wanted to see how women are represented across specific board level roles. Across our ten company study, we found four female and 13 male sales directors, a significant gap with more than three times as many men as women.

Within executive level toys marketing, we find that there are 12 females to ten males, showing a more even gender balance.

This is lost again, however, when examining MD and general manager roles. Our study shows six men in comparison to only one female.

Blazing a trail for gender equality is LEGO. It employs 20 women and 18 men in board level roles. This may fit well with its commercial goals, with its first ever female scientist model sets selling out in a matter of days, they’re helping to break the stereotype of toy products for girls.

Mattel also fares well, with seven women in director and VP roles compared to nine men. Again, more women in marketing than in sales or other senior management roles, similar to the pattern we’ve seen across other companies.

According to The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading charity for women’s equality and rights, “Companies with more women on their boards were found to outperform their rivals, with a 42 per cent higher return in sales, 66 per cent higher return on invested capital and 53 per cent higher return on equity.”

This indicates there may be a big incentive for toy firms to have a more gender-balanced boardroom.

Despite other companies in the UK toy trade comparing less favourably, overall our research suggests that gender equality in the toy industry is better than some industries. Recent research from Fawcett Society has highlighted that in the media sector, an average 75 per cent of leading figures are men, where in the wider business world only 20 per cent of directors are women.

Based on this research, it makes business sense to have more female leaders. So it follows that companies should be trying to change the current status quo.

This can only start with some further analysis on how open the route is for women to gain leadership positions, first identifying any barriers and then working to remove them.

Could this be done by putting policies in place to support more female progression?

Hannah Goodwin is a recruitment consultant at Aardvark Swift. She can be contacted at Hannah@aswift.com or 01709 834 777.

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