Two women in senior positions in the retail and technology sector have called on companies in the industry to do more to close the gender gap during a panel session at last month's Retail IT event in London, held at the China Exchange, which explored how small- and mid-sized retailers could harness technology to take on the large chains and online retail giants.

Amelia Kallman, head of innovation at Engage Works, is disappointed that 75% of boards in the UK don’t have a woman on them. “Women in this industry tend to be really hard workers," she says, "especially because we often feel like we have to prove ourselves, so always go that extra mile”. She implored businesses to employ more women at senior levels because, she believes, “putting a woman in a room full of men changes behaviours and makes them work harder too.”

Laetitia Kotsiopoulos, head of IT and supply chain at Intersport and AIS declares: “It’s still a man's world. I often have meetings with IT providers and clients where I am the only woman. It takes more time and energy to show that you are credible.” She called on employers to be more flexible to help women start in – or return to – the industry. “There are many jobs in technology and retail where you have to work long hours and travel, so if employers considered flexi-time a little more, this would be appealing to women.”

They were joined on the panel by James Knowles, head of commercial projects at Drapers, and Samir Belkhayat, UK business development director at Cegid, who addressed topics such as taking on Amazon, standout retail technology trends, and the retailers that utilise technology well.

Prior to the panel session, attendees were treated to presentations from Retail IT personnel and keynote speaker Sir Clive Woodward.

James Rodger, MD at Retail IT, explored five ways in which retailers can harness technology to compete with the retail giants, while Matthew Carlton, Retail IT’s marketing manager, discussed how digital and social media can help a retailer increase brand awareness, drive footfall and online traffic, and boost sales and revenue.

England Rugby’s World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive then captivated attendees with insightful advice around IT and technology, citing a number of examples from his sporting background. "Whoever wins in IT tends to win," he declared. “IT allows you to leverage your knowledge and understanding - technology is an amplifier not a distraction." Referring to his successful sporting career, he advised the audience that "the key is that everyone, including the players, must be able to use the technology - not just the analysis team."

The event was concluded by Douglas Radburn, development team lead at Purenet, who informed delegates how omnichannel brands and experiences can be created through ecommerce.