WiW conference attracts 200 industry figures to the capital

More than 200 delegates gathered in central London for the fourth Women in Wholesale (WiW) conference.

Introducing the day-long event, WiW founder and organiser Elit Rowland said: “In 2016 we were hard pushed to see women at industry events. It’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown in four years. Every year we push the bar higher with fantastic speakers, unrivalled expert insight, and now our Star awards to honour top female talent.”

This year’s conference, themed around boosting personal and business performance, saw a diverse range of speakers and panel discussions, all with a unique industry perspective.

NatWest’s head of tech, Neil Bellamy, kicked off the day with a talk on the importance of technology in enabling a “liquid workforce” which is more agile, project-based and ahead of the disruptors.

Other speakers included Costco’s HR & training development manager Dominic Flanagan who challenged delegates to address their unconscious bias; Budweiser’s convenience sales director Jessica Markowski championed Budweiser’s emphasis on people as its most important asset.

Phil Hoskins, HR director at exporter Ramsden International then emphasised the need to be succinct and to set goals to succeed, and Carlsberg’s account controller Helen Rimmer tackled impostor syndrome.

Changing sector attitudes since the WiW initiative launched were highlighted by Laura Joyce, client manager at HIM & MCA insight, who partnered with WiW to reveal exclusive research. Findings showed that while flexible working has been embraced by the sector compared to 2017, lack of respect at work is still being seen as an issue. 53% of females also stressed the need for better career development.

In a session themed around skills, Central England chief executive officer and former Spar managing director Debbie Robinson described her 25 year career journey. She also shared her passion for social justice initiatives such as Co-op’s work with Fareshare to provide holiday-time meals to children. “We need to be constantly relevant, inclusive and diverse,” she said.

Interactive sessions were led by Esther Shearwood from The Gap Partnership, who gave the audience a crash course in negotiation. Meanwhile, resilience trainer Carol Dakin focused on strength, patience, emotional intelligence and purpose as key resilience-building attributes.

This year’s guest speaker, executive coach Carol Glover, highlighted the need for employers to embrace mavericks who think differently within their organisation. “Being true to myself has been key to everything I’ve ever done,” she said, before giving delegates tips on time management that allow creativity to flourish at work.

In two panel sessions, the first chaired by the FWD’s James Bielby and the second by the ACS’s James Lowman saw a total of eight industry representatives exchange tips for driving careers and businesses forward and fostering an inclusive workplace culture.

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Paul Hill
Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. Paul can be found on Twitter on @BW_PaulHill, or can be contacted via paul.hill@newtrade.co.uk and 020 7689 3376.

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