In late 2021, a group of nutraceutical industry friends came together and asked themselves: What can we do about the perceived gender gap in leadership in the industry? There had been conversations and conference sessions around the business case for inclusion, and benefits around gender parity. But looking across the industry, there was a feeling that from the supplier side through to finished product brands, women were under-represented in leadership positions.

Those conversations not only fueled the founding of Women In Nutraceuticals (WIN), but also one of the cornerstone projects we undertook as a significant first step—a global baseline survey of gender representation in leadership across the nutraceutical industry. WIN engaged NEXT Data & Insights to conduct this survey, which would provide a benchmark from which to set goals for greater inclusion in the industry, and to compare against other general businesses and related industries.

Uncovering the gender leadership gap

On 9 May, during Vitafoods Europe, I had the opportunity to debut the findings from the Gender Representation in Nutraceutical Industry Leadership Survey. What we found was in line with our expectations—but not out of line with corporate leadership in general nor in similar industries.

When looking at the pharmaceutical & medical products space, women make up 39% of VP roles, 34% of SVPs and 28% of C-suite, according to McKinsey & Company’s ‘Women in the Workplace 2022’ report. Those figures are slightly higher than corporate figures overall from McKinsey, which puts representation of women at the VP level at 32%, SVP at 28%, and C-suite at 26%. With the nutraceutical industry clocking in at 37% of senior leadership, that’s a notable head start toward greater gender parity. This affords companies the opportunity to embrace gender equity to fill the leadership pipeline, starting at the very first—and critical—step. Because McKinsey also reports that for the eighth consecutive year, there is a ‘broken rung,’ with only 87 women promoted from entry-level to manager for every 100 men. Without parity at the beginning, there are simply too few women to promote to senior leadership roles over time.

Further, the nutraceutical industry consumer base remains majority female. Having diversity of thought and experience in every part of the business—from product development into marketing and communication—can yield greater innovation and business growth.

Women In Nutraceuticals (WIN) will use this information and interviews with its members and sponsors to set goals on numbers of women in senior leadership and the C-suite, as well as programming and tools to help them get there. Further information about the survey results and opportunities ahead are available in a new whitepaper, which is free to WIN members.

Note: Women In Nutraceuticals also recognizes Informa Markets for its financial sponsorship of the survey project.

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