Inspiring and progressing: Findings from the WiW conference and awards

Paul Hill reports from the annual WiW conference and inaugural Star Awards

Four women, alongside one wholesaler, have won the first Women in Wholesale (WiW)
Star Awards.

The prizes were handed to winners at a fourth conference for the initiative, which saw more than 200 delegates gather in central London. Sue Mann, group marketing manager at JW Filshill, whose video campaign for National Women’s Day was described by judges as a “brilliant initiative”, won Best Newcomer of the Year.

Ramsden International’s operations manager, Leanne Parkin, won Inclusive Manager of the Year, in particular for her revamp of her company’s sales system. Judges also noted: “She is a problem solver – buying a one-handed keyboard to support a staff member with a wrist injury is truly proactive.”

Castell Howell’s sales and marketing director, Kathryn Jones, scooped the Woman of the Year award, with judges commenting that her work, in particular her mentoring of women, needs to be seen and heard in the industry. “She’s invested a lot of time and money into training and development, such as her work with young farmers and secondary schools.”

Pricecheck’s managing director, Debbie Harrison, came away with Leader of the Year. Described as “in a league of her own”, she has worked to raise the visibility of wholesale as well as push new boundaries within her business. “The fact that her apprentices want to stay and work at Pricecheck goes to show they are making wholesale attractive and exciting,” judges said.

Finally, JJ Foodservice came away with Best Initiative to Attract and Retain Talent. Its Women in the Warehouse campaign was described as “an industry first” alongside praise for its Family Reward Scheme, which gives employees big discounts on popular high street brands.

This year’s conference centred on boosting personal and business performance,
and included a diverse range of speakers and panel discussions.

Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I sales director for convenience and wholesale Jessica Markowski emphasised that people are the drinks giant’s most important asset, also pointing out that 50% of the leadership team are now women who have each got to the position on merit.

Changing sector attitudes since the WiW initiative launched were then 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, a lack of respect at work is still seen as an issue. Fifty-three per cent of women also stressed the need for better career development.

Central England Co-op chief executive officer and former Spar managing director Debbie Robinson then 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.

In two panel sessions, the first chaired by the FWD’s James Bielby and the second by the ACS’s James Lowman, eight industry representatives exchanged tips. These included pieces of advice such as to set realistic and manageable goals over short periods, the creation of personal development plans with line mangers, and taking time to strategise every single meeting and action within your work, regardless of how important it may be.

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Paul Hill is the Editor of Better Wholesaling. He can be found on Twitter at @BW_PaulHill, or contacted via and 07960935659.


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