Hundreds of business figures gathered at Claridge’s Hotel in London this evening, Thursday 17 September, to celebrate 12 incredible women working within retail who were chosen as 2015 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors.
This programme is fronted by retail icon Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers, and supported by a number of forward-thinking organisations that are committed to showcasing the career opportunities retail offers women of all ages.
The world of retail is immense, and the UK is a global leader. Those considering retail as a career have numerous opportunities open to them, whether their passion is to work in fashion, grocery, sports or gifts, and with the growth of e-commerce there has never been a better time to join the sector. Yet more needs to be done to ensure equality at a senior level in retail – only 13 out of 100 on the Retail Week Power List 2015 were women.
The phenomenally inspirational women unveiled this evening have been chosen to help balance this inequality – by sharing their story with other women, showing them what a career in retail really looks like, and influencing them to understand that they too can achieve great things.
The first ambassador was announced by Hayley Tatum, Senior Vice President People and Stores at ASDA: Laura Murden, Category Manager – TomTom Sports, TomTom.
"If you believe in an idea it's really important that you fight for it, and the results will come by themselves," she said.
Jill Flood, Senior Brand Manager, Superdrug said: "I'd like to say thank you to Superdrug. I can be sitting on my sofa browsing Twitter and come up with an idea, and a year and a half later it can be realised, and a multi-million pound brand," she said.
The third and fourth ambassadors were announced by Jo Lee, VP of Merchandising at QVC.
Gillian Baird, Store Manager, ASDA said: "Thanks to ASDA for being such a great employer. I can't speak more highly of all my colleagues who make my job possible."
Suzanne Cooper, Bakery Manager, Greggs the Baker said: "I'm extremely proud to receive this award. I'm proud to be representing women at Greggs and women in the wider retail circle."
Jo Baker, CFO at Worldpay announced the fifth, sixth and seventh Ambassadors.
Sally Preston, Founder & Managing Director, The Kids Food Company said: "I looked up 'what is a role model', and one of my team gave me this definition: 'It isn't someone who's perfect, it's someone who handles hurdles with resilience and good humour.' I hope that my passion and energy is infectious for my entire team."
Natasha Leith-Smith, Founder & Designer, Allumer Jewellery London said: "I'm so grateful to do what I love every day, and at the same time I get to support and develop the next generation - and the next generation of women!"
Clare Blampied, Managing Director, Sacla UK said: "I've been so lucky that I've had a team that works with me to sell 30 million jars of pesto a year. This is such a special award at such a special time, thank you."
Sue Douthwaite, Regional Managing Director, Retail at Santander announced the next two Ambassadors.
Emma Pacey, Senior Buying Manager, Toys, ASDA said: "I have to say thank you to my manager Steph. We've been working together for over eight years, and I've just been promoted, taken a leap of faith thanks to her."
Lorna Billinge, Vice President of Global QA and Supply Chain Operations, QVC said: "I work for a great company, I've been very fortunate to have a lot of opportunities to develop. But most importantly, I have a great team and a great family who support me - so this is for them."
Salesforce, Louise Clark, Senior Manager Head of Retail Marketing presented the tenth and eleventh Ambassador trophies.
Clare Standage, Category Manager, Cycle Accessories, Halfords said: "I've been with the same retailer for 11 years, Halfords. I'd like to thank them for allowing me to grow, and work on a huge range of projects."
Helen Webb, Director of HR, Food Retail, The Co-operative said: "I've worked in retail for over 27 years and I've had the privilege to be mentored and sponsored by a range of fabulous women, some of whom are in the room tonight. I'd like to make sure I pay this forward to the women in retail coming behind me."
The Specsavers everywoman Retail Ambassador of the Year, announced by Dame Mary Perkins, is Negar Bagherzadeh, Senior Manager Business Applications, Gap inc.
"I'm incredibly lucky to work for a company where equal pay is the norm," Neg said. "The people that brought me here today have taught me compassion, leadership, how to inspire others, but also how to sell jeans and t-shirts really well! I hope this is a great avenue to showing women across the UK that they can be whatever they want to be, and be really successful in retail."
Maxine Benson, Co-founder of everywoman comments: “All this year’s Ambassadors demonstrate the confidence, enthusiasm and ambition that a retail role model should possess. What struck the judging panel was how many of them have not only taken great risks but are willing to work so hard to see their ideas realised. Their energy and achievements are hugely inspirational for future generations considering their career options. They showcase retail to be the very exciting industry that it is. We congratulate all twelve of them.”
Dame Mary Perkins, Founder of Specsavers, continues: “The role of women in retail has never been more pivotal than it is today. Through their hard work and dedication, women in the industry have forged a path into some of the most influential roles in their sector, whether that’s on the shop floor or in the most senior positions, and the results speak for themselves. The 12 ambassadors chosen this year, serve as a shining example of what can be achieved, both to women working in the industry today and to future generations. We congratulate all 12 of them.”
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