Women in Nutraceuticals: Work needed to reap profits of gender parity

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© Wavebreakmedia / Getty Images
© Wavebreakmedia / Getty Images

Related tags Women Leadership Profit

A new benchmarking survey from Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN) – a non-profit dedicated to achieving gender parity in the industry – highlights the benefits of promoting female leadership.

“It was important to find out how many women are in senior positions in our industry to help guide the programs WIN is developing to achieve gender equity and give companies a basis for comparison of their own performance,” Karen Todd, WIN chairperson and vice president of global brand marketing at Kyowa Hakko-USA, told NutraIngredients-USA.

The survey collected data from 355 male and female respondents working for companies in the nutraceutical space across the U.S., Europe and Asia between Dec. 2022 and Jan. 2023.

The state of female representation

“Women are underrepresented in the nutraceutical industry; fewer than 3 out of 10 CEOs are women, and women hold fewer than 4 out of 10 leadership positions,” WIN noted in its white paper summarizing the survey results.

A breakdown by company size showed that smaller companies (less than $10 million in annual sales) fared better, with females comprising nearly half of senior leadership positions, followed by 36% in medium-sized companies and 34% in larger companies (over $100 million in annual sales). Companies covered in the survey ranged from ingredient suppliers and finished goods manufacturers to ancillary service providers.

Relative to overall gender-representation performance in corporate America, WIN referenced the McKinsey & Company “Women in the Workplace 2022”​ study that reported female representation at the vice president level at 32%, senior vice president at 28% and C-suite at 26%. 

Findings from the WIN Gender Parity in Leadership survey revealed that women occupy an average of 37% senior leadership roles in the nutraceutical industry.

The pipeline challenges

WIN highlighted the pipeline challenges evidenced by the McKinsey report, which called out the “broken rung” at the first step up from entry level as hindering women’s mobility along the management track.

“For every 100 men who are promoted from entry-level roles to manager positions, only 87 women are promoted, and only 82 women of color are promoted,” according to McKinsey. “As a result, men significantly outnumber women at the manager level, and women can never catch up. There are simply too few women to promote to senior leadership positions.”

The report also noted that women leaders are increasingly switching companies, motivated by more generous work-from-home policies, real opportunities for advancement, and a desire for a better work culture.

“Until women are intentionally cultivated into career paths that track for leadership roles, this is difficult to change,” one male WIN survey respondent commented on the state of underrepresentation. “I think the industry is evolving fast but more needs to be done.”  

The benefits of female leadership

“With strong data from respected organizations showing a link between higher board and C-suite diversity and business performance, companies in our industry can see where they stand and fill their lower management pipeline with future female company leaders,” Todd said.

The white paper accompanying the survey also points to a 2020 McKinsey “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters”​ report that makes the business case for inclusion and diversity, asserting that companies with more than 30% female executives are 48% more likely to outperform least gender-diverse companies. A recent Harvard Business Review​ also found that gender diversity promotes best outcomes as “women do hard things better”.

Survey respondents emphasized advantages of diversity including better positioning for capturing new markets, increased performance and profits, and improved audience reach – particularly in a nutraceutical industry dominated by female shoppers. 

“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,” the WIN leadership team suggests.

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