International Women’s Day: Female Filshill staff discuss their time in wholesale

JW Filshill
Filshill head office in Glasgow, Scotland

To mark International Women’s Day, three female employees at Glasgow-based wholesaler JW Filshill talk about their jobs, challenges encountered along the way in their wholesale career, aspirations for the future and what they love about working in the channel.

Fiona Ritchie, Filshill

 Fiona Ritchie, Impulse buyer

When did you join Filshill and why?

I first started working for Filshill in 2004 when I was a student at the University of the West of Scotland. It was a weekend job and I was saving up to go on holiday. I knew the company because I lived in Paisley – it was known as “the sweetie company”. It was also a family company and that appealed to me.

Wholesale is traditionally considered to be a male-dominated industry – were you phased by that?

I can’t say that I was because I am the sort of person who just gets on with it. My first job was on the checkout, before I eventually moved to the goods-in department. Sometimes the guys would be cheeky and say things like, “are you sure you can lift those beans?” I would just laugh and show them that I did not need their help.

Were your male colleagues helpful and supportive?

At the time there were two females on the checkout and I think they were initially surprised, but after they saw we were keen to work they treated us no differently. I have had a lot of help and support from male colleagues at various stages throughout my career.

Despite the great strides in society, many professions – including wholesale – are still seen as a male domain. Mention wholesale and many people will immediately think: that means shifting boxes and operating a forklift in a warehouse. What do you think?

I can understand why people with no experience of our industry think that. People have certain perceptions but I have shifted boxes in my time and it was no big deal. For a lot of women, though, it is about finding a job that fits around their family life. Often that is shift work, so doing a job in a warehouse could be right for them for that reason.

I took on the checkout role even though I knew it would involve heavy lifting and manual picking, but with proper training there is no reason why a female cannot do the same job as a man if they want to.

Regarding wholesale in particular, is the industry making progress? There are many different jobs within wholesale – sales, customer service, finance, marketing.

Again, it comes down to your perception of what wholesale is. It is about getting the message out there that that there are great jobs in the wholesale industry. My job involves meeting people, negotiating deals – it is a job that challenges me and requires a lot of different skills that my managers have encouraged me to develop. In that respect, Filshill is a really forward-thinking company that empowers its employees – male and female.

Generally speaking, what are the barriers, in your opinion, to women pursuing a career in wholesale?

Some jobs will not appeal to some women because they are quite physically demanding but Filshill is an award-winning company that wants to attract talented people regardless of gender so the challenge is to promote wholesale as an exciting sector that provides career progression for both men and women. As previously mentioned there are roles in sales, marketing, finance, customer service and so on.

Shirley Ruane, Filshill

 Shirley Ruane, KeyStore area manager

When did you join Filshill and why?

I am a relative newcomer to the company – I joined JW Filshill in November 2016 after 18 years with Camelot. I was familiar with the company having worked with KeyStore retailers and when I was made redundant I was approached by Filshill’s sales director, Ian McDonald, who recently retired, to ask if I was interested in joining his sales team.

Is the wholesale industry doing enough to attract women? Is it still seen a male domain?

Not nearly as much as it was but I do think we need to talk about it more. At the recent Scottish Wholesale Achievers dinner in Edinburgh there were a lot of women there – that suggests the industry is making excellent strides. Filshill is a great example of a wholesaler that has both men and women working in various roles.

What is your view on the subject of quotas?

I certainly would not like to get a job because the company had to meet a gender quota – I do not think any woman would want that. If you are the right person for the job then you should get that job.

Sandra Morris, Filshill

Sandra Morris, Key accounts manager

When did you join Filshill and why?

I joined the company just over six years ago having worked for Mondelez as an account manager. I looked after Filshill so I knew the company well. Prior to that I worked for Trebor – 27 years ago – and used to pick up stock from Filshill. My job involves four big customers – the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), Scotmid, G101 and Caledonian MacBrayne (CalMac).

You have been involved with the wholesale industry for a long time – what changes have you seen?

There are definitely more women working in the industry now which is a good thing but I believe that it does not matter what your gender is – an employer should appoint the right person for the job regardless of gender. I think there should also be both men and women on interview panels to ensure a fair balance of views.

Is the wholesale industry still considered to be a male domain, do you think?

Yes, to a certain extent when you look at some of the jobs available in the warehouse. There are some jobs that many women might not want to do. However, there are plenty of other great jobs for women – in sales, HR, customer service, marketing and so on.


Martyn Fisher
Martyn Fisher is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. Martyn can be found on Twitter on @BW_Martyn, or can be contacted via and 020 3871 6490.