‘We need less confrontation and more compassion’

confrontational man

Trupti PatelWomen must be determined and focused, and have clear goals to succeed. This is especially true for women making their way in a male-dominated industry. I should know – I have now been general manager of two Bestway depots and each role has brought different challenges.

I face these challenges with the full support of the Bestway head office and suppliers. However, in my previous roles at Bestway, I felt I had to work twice as hard as my male counterparts: firstly to be recognised, and then to be rewarded with promotions. Once promoted, it felt that male employees sometimes seemed to listen less to me than they would to a male manager.

This was not confined to Bestway. When I began in wholesale, it was symptomatic of the times, and I was one of the few women working at the sharp end of the industry. Of course, there were other opportunities I could have taken in wholesale, such as in marketing, accounts or human resources. But I loved the cut and thrust of managing depots, meeting customers and driving sales.

When I started, depot management was seen as the domain of men. I’m pleased that this is now changing, and that I have been in some way responsible for this rethinking of women as depot managers.

In my opinion, women can be the best leaders in the world. They handle situations with compassion while still maintaining their professionalism, and these are rare qualities. A female perspective can completely change the outcome of a conversation. Women often have more empathy, especially when dealing with junior members of staff, and I have rarely seen this outlook in male counterparts. We need less confrontation and more compassion.  

Thankfully, times are changing, and more and more women are reaching executive positions. However, as a society, more can be done to encourage girls. Being a leader isn’t about being bossy and exploitative – it is about treating people with respect to get the very best out of them to better serve the business. It is about nurturing staff and helping them to realise their potential, and I believe that my experience as a woman and a mother has made me a far better manager.

In today’s society, if a woman is the main bread-winner it shouldn’t be an issue, but it can be. Dealing with these types of criticism is common in this industry. As a mother, you may also be criticised for choosing to a pursue career and made to feel guilty for it. But this is wrong. Women can do it. It isn’t impossible.

To make your mark and fit into this environment, mental and physical strength is a must. There will be stages where people try to push you down and stop you from reaching your potential, but you can never let them win. You must get up and carry on.

I have two children – Neil, 20, and Radhika, 17. Neil is studying chemical engineering and Radhika is completing her A-levels, hoping to pursue a career in medicine. I have taught both of my children to strive for what they want in life, and to never look back. I have never let my daughter feel like she isn’t good enough to achieve her goals. She can be the same leader that her brother wants to be.

These values will take them far in life. My own professional and personal achievements fill me with pride, especially as being a woman and a mother has not been easy.

Wholesale may never top girls’ lists of career preferences, but it has been a rich and fulfilling career choice for me. Every woman in wholesale is a role model, and as a result of our hard work and achievements, girls like my daughter and those that work in our company are inspired and know that there is no limit to what they can achieve.

For women in wholesale it has been difficult – and it will most probably continue to be that way. However, if women continue to be strong, and show determination and commitment, the phrase ‘male-dominated industry’ will one day never have to be heard or used again.

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