Women in Retail Roundtable Highlights October 2022

Bringing a community of like-minded professionals together

makepositive and Salesforce were incredibly proud to host their first-ever Women in Retail networking event at The Dorchester in London on October 7, 2022.

The event is designed to bring female leaders from across the retail sector together to share their experiences, enjoy an afternoon tea, and take part in a discussion with Jo Fairley, Co-Founder at Green & Black’s and a panel of female leaders in retail.

Retail is one of the biggest industries worldwide; women make up a sizable share of the workforce. However, even today, females make up just 8.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs. Women in leadership roles is a hot topic, with many women feeling underrepresented in the boardroom and pressured to conform to a working culture that favours their male counterparts. To illustrate, according to a KPMG survey, 75% of female leaders in all industries have encountered imposter syndrome (i.e., mistakenly feeling like they don’t belong in a specific role or lack certain professional skills).

Sasha Samuels (Senior Retail Account Executive at Salesforce) and Nessa Marriott (Commercial Director – Media & Retail at makepositive) are hopeful that bringing a community of like-minded professionals together every quarter can help female leaders learn from each other. The initiative also establish a jumping-off point, providing regular networking and mentorship opportunities to help aspiring female leaders break through the glass ceiling and abolish their feelings of imposter syndrome for good.

Our team at makepositive was delighted to meet such a wide range of talented retail professionals at the roundtable event. We interviewed several attendees to get their key takeaways from the day:

Flexible working is helping to break down barriers to female leadership

“One of the biggest barriers to female leadership is simply the ‘always on’ culture. And I know so many women who haven’t wanted to step up into senior roles because of the ‘macho’ timekeeping aspect of workplace culture. I rather hope that with the rise of flexible and hybrid working might reduce some of the barriers to leadership because women can see that they can play by a much more flexible way of working rather than having to just play by the men’s rules.

I also think that a lot of the time women feel like a little lone salmon swimming upstream. But actually, we have come together today and realised it’s a shoal, and everyone’s trying to move in the right direction. And that’s just so supportive and so comforting.” – Jo Fairley, Co-Founder of Green & Black’s.

Recognising leadership skills in yourself and others boosts confidence

“It’s always important to have someone around you who is actually pointing out the abilities and skills that you have. Sometimes you don’t realise it yourself. And that’s something that I’m trying to pay forward.

The best advice I’ve been given has been to reframe any challenging situation I’m in. So, for instance, when you have to have a very difficult conversation or have your own very difficult project, reframe it as something that you’ll be able to just add to your skill set.” – Ana de la Vega, Head of Product at MATCHESFASHION.

Getting involved in mentorship creates an abundance of learning opportunities

“As a mentee, make sure that you are preparing for the mentorship. What is your goal? What are the questions that you have for your mentor? How do you envision this working, and what would the ideal outcome be for you?

For mentors, I think you can actually learn a lot from your mentees because they bring a fresh perspective. But the main thing I would say is do you have enough time? Do you think you’re actually going to be able to help that person? If you think you can, then you should accept them as a mentee.”- Sidonie Jago, Head of Private Shopping at Harvey Nichols.

Reframing’ work-life balance’ as an exercise in integration

“The key takeaway for me today was the challenges of work-life balance. I’ve just learned about integration rather than work-life balance, so I’m going to try to integrate my life into my career rather than try and battle with both elements separately.” – Sharon Prior, Chief Information Officer at Card Factory.

Work-life integration is the concept of “blending” personal and professional obligations. Employees with a healthy work-life balance can work for a set period, often from 9 to 5, and then put their jobs on hold for the remainder of their free time. Work-life integration encourages a more fluid approach to career-building.

Imposter syndrome is common but shouldn’t hold you back from your career goals

“I came to the women in retail event today to learn and to be inspired. And just listening to their stories, I found them incredibly energising, uplifting and motivating. We had a really interesting conversation on the theory of impostor syndrome. And you know, one of my key takeaways was actually it happens to almost everyone and to just lean in and do it anyway.” – Jennifer McNally, Head of Digital at Stella McCartney.

makepositive creates positive change within a wide range of industries

We want to thank all our guests for coming to our roundtable event and sharing their thoughts and ideas for making the industry a more inclusive environment for all.

If you would like to learn more about our work in supporting women in their careers, take a look at this previous article on how makepositive addresses gender bias in the technology sector.

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