Awards 2014 - Advancing Women in the Workplace - Large Org - Asda

Gender Equality at Asda – Building the Talent Pipeline



Asda celebrates diversity in the workplace and welcomes people of all ages and from all walks of life. People are very much at the heart of how Asda does business and they strive to ensure their employees represent the communities they serve. 80% of their customers are women therefore it is their mission to ensure they are well represented at all levels and in all areas of the business. But all retailers face a tough gender challenge and Asda are no exception - 68% of their female employees work in lower paid sales roles and last year only 30% of the employees who were ready for directorship were female.


Asda has taken action to ensure they have fair and equitable recruitment, promotion and retention processes in order to attract, develop and retain a diverse and gender balanced talent pool.

First they undertook an employee consultation exercise to identify barriers.
Issues included:

  • Perceived long hours in management
  • A lack of role models
  • A lack of self belief and confidence


The next step was to raise awareness; Asda rolled out unconscious bias training to educate managers and maximise engagement at all levels. This started at the very top with the Executive board and cascaded down to all managers. Secondly, a brand new two year “Women in Leadership” programme was developed. The first year was delivered through a combination of targeted development modules and group mentoring. The second year is a legacy project, where the participants “Pay it Forward” by educating and inspiring other women. The programme was complemented by changes to HR practices including the introduction of recruitment and development tools which focussed on strengths. Additionally, performance measures for senior leaders were updated to include diversity competencies. But this was never merely an HR initiative, gender equality is a business strategy. A whole additional layer of non-HR support for women was set in motion, including “Mum to Mum” mentoring and a strong LGBT network.


Within the first year of the “Women in Leadership” programme the representation of female store managers increased by 4%. The percentage of female employees ready for directorship also jumped up to 67%.

85% of female employees agreed that ‘I have the opportunity to progress if I want to’, this is 16 points higher than the retail benchmark (according to survey consultants, ORC International).

Additionally, more than 1,000 women have now attended inspirational careers events in stores and depots, and there has been excellent feedback. 

The “Women in Leadership” programme is cyclic, therefore intrinsically sustainable, with the legacy projects inspiring the female leaders of tomorrow. This enables Asda to share different experiences and ideas creating an unrivalled level of customer service.