Women in Retail – A blog piece by Nisa’s Head of Retail Victoria Lockie
The retail sector as a whole has come on leaps and bounds in terms of gender equality since I started my career. This has been a result of determined individuals who, through their dedication and tenacity, have promoted opportunities for women in the industry.
As Nisa’s Head of Retail and a proud Ambassador for Diversity in Wholesale and Women in Wholesale, I am determined to bring industry figures together to drive gender equality in the sector.
At this year’s annual conference in Stoneleigh, I had the pleasure of introducing a panel discussion with five leading women in the industry for our Women in Retail panel. The panel included Co-op Food’s commercial director, Sinead Bell; Women in Wholesale founder Elit Rowland; Greencore’s business improvement coordinator, Monique Munro; and the owner of Whyte’s of New Pitsligo, Julie-Anne Whyte.
It was a fascinating discussion, in which our panel members shared their own experiences, discussed gender equality in the retail industry, and explored the support tools, groups, and forums available to female Nisa retailers.
What particularly resonated was the fact that so many women in this industry have experience being the only woman in the room. However, the sector is changing.
The panelists shared changes being made across the sector to achieve gender equality in retail businesses by engaging in unbiased recruitment training and removing gender biased wording from job adverts. Monique added that Greencore have standardised the wording for roles. “It has been proven than women are more likely to apply to a job if they feel like they can achieve 80-100% of the criteria list, whereas men apply if they feel like they can achieve a minimum of 60%. It’s really important to have a distinction between desirable and necessary traits”, she said. These changes will prove to be essential if we are to attract the right people to the industry.
The establishment of Women in Wholesale by Elit and many others has allowed women in the industry to gain the recognition they deserve. It is through this work, and the work of many other organisations and businesses, that we have been able to raise the visibility of emerging talent within the industry.
The discussion highlighted that while the journey towards gender diversity and equality in the sector is ongoing, there is always more that we can do to drive change. Elit mentioned this during our panel discussion when she said that “we all have a responsibility to create the culture we want to see, it doesn’t matter what job role you are in”. It is because of this I, and many others across the industry, want to empower out colleagues and peers to drive change.
To foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for women in the retail convenience sector, businesses need to be proactive. Nisa regularly engages with female retailers and colleagues to discuss what more can be done to improve diversity and equality, and our MD, Peter Batt, leads from the front to champion this.
Through our work with the Women in Wholesale and Co-op’s Aspire network we are able to promote events and opportunities for all of our colleagues.
By developing a wide support network, we are able to enhance the experiences and careers of our female colleagues. It is particularly telling that during the Women in Retail panel, all panelists agreed that it was essential that we use out networks across the supply chain and in the world of retail to drive change.
The wholesale sector can gain immensely by empowering women within its workforce, recognizing their invaluable contributions, and by taking tangible steps to support their professional development.