In a recent article for Reuters, Melissa Fares and Uday Sampath Kumar reported on some good financial news for teen apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. A&F saw its shares grow by 24 percent in early trading on November 29, 2018, driven by better than expected same-store sales for the holiday quarter.
Unsurprisingly for a financial outlet like Reuters, the strong stock performance took the top spot in this story. But for a company like ours, focused on diversity and inclusion, there was also big news buried down on paragraph 8: “The company promoted the head of Hollister, Kristen Scott, to a newly created position Global Brands president,” write Fares and Kumar. “Stacia Andersen, brand president of Abercrombie & Fitch would be leaving the company, it said.”
Why is this big news? Well, for two reasons. For one, despite some progress, women remain underrepresented in top management positions. According to Catalyst, women account for only one quarter (24%) of senior roles globally. This is particularly true among major corporations, where Catalyst reports that only 4.8 percent of women were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies in the 2018 Fortune list.
And even when women do land top positions, they are rarely followed by another woman in the same or equivalent role. As Sharon Florentine writes for CIO, “Over the last year, there’ve been a lot of firsts in the Fortune 500: the first openly lesbian CEO, the first Latina CEO, and the first Black woman CEO of an NBA franchise. But there have been a lot of good-byes, too, as Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup Company, Margo Georgiadis of Mattel, and Irene Rosenfeld of Mondelez have all left the top spot at their respective companies and have been replaced by men. In fact, according to data compiled by Catalyst, since 2009, only three female CEOs were followed by another woman.”
The elevation of Kristin Scott to her new role at Abercrombie & Fitch therefore represents the bucking of two persistent trends we’ve seen for decades in the representation of women in top management positions. Hopefully it’s a sign of more to come and not an anomaly!
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