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Given that surveys time and again identify women as the principal retail buyers within families, it remains mystifying that retail has been so slow to embrace women in retail leadership roles. Of course, there are plenty of historical women leaders and founders, many of whom launched game-changing retail names and brands, or redefined existing businesses. Yet within the boardroom, lack of diversity continues for women in retail, especially in Europe which trails behind a more progressive US retail boardroom.
Dame Sharon White is chair of John Lewis Partnership, the colleague-owned retail giant that operates the department store chain John Lewis and supermarket group Waitrose. She replaced Sir Charlie Mayfield, and joined the partnership at a time of declining profits and senior management departures. White has closed some stores, announced John Lewis mini-stores will open within Waitrose outlets and decided to turn some of its flagship London store into offices.
A retail leadership legend, Angela Ahrendts is currently on the boards of companies including WPP, Ralph Lauren and Airbnb but is best known for career-defining roles as the former SVP of Apple Retail, and the CEO of British luxury brand Burberry, which she modernised and revolutionised during her time at its helm.
Athleisure brand Sweaty Betty promoted its managing director Julia Straus to the role of chief executive in 2019. Straus joined the UK activewear retailer in August 2018 after three years as chief executive of US beauty brand Tula. She took over from co-founder Simon Hill-Norton, who stepped aside to become chairman.