Women in Wholesale: Five things we learned

women in wholesale conference
The inaugural Women in Wholesale conference, which took place in central London

Yesterday (18 October), the first-ever Women in Wholesale conference took place in London.

Better Wholesaling joined more than 60 female wholesalers, suppliers and speakers for a thought-provoking discussion and informative presentations. Here are five things we learned from this year’s event.

  1. According to Oliver Latham, of services firm Ernst Young, gender parity has moved backwards. It is now estimated that it will take 117 years for global gender equality to be achieved. Parity won’t happen without men stepping up and championing equality in the workplace and helping to create a culture that supports and promotes gender diversity. Strong female role models, good networking, increased emphasis on flexible working and mentoring from senior leaders are all ways in which employers can work towards lowering that figure.
  2. 47% of the Federation of Wholesale Distributors’ (FWD) members’ employees are women. However, the organisation understand that in many companies, women operate in lower paid, lower skilled jobs, and often experience a glass ceiling when it comes to progression. The FWD already supports and promotes men and women through training bursaries, but has now announced a training bursary fund specifically for women to support, skills, training, development and career progression. A goal is also in place for 50% of training bursaries to be given to women by 2018.
  3. Karina van der Oever, principal consultant at consultancy firm Elixirr, told delegates how men will put themselves up for a role if they think they have the skills and experience to do 20% of the job. By contrast, women will only put themselves forward for a role if they are confident they can do 80% of it. Talent can be empowered and sponsorship is one way women can take charge of their own careers, she said.
  4. In recognising a need for change and to adapt to a changing wholesale landscape, Bestway has appointed its first female member to the board. Carolyn McMenemie is the first senior female appointment and takes on the role of HR director, also a first for the business. Her appointment reflects the desire of the company and shareholders to embrace change and invest in people.
  5. According to a live poll taken at the event, women feel that they lack support with career progression and personal career development. Sam Sinister, from Innocent Drinks, says there must be clarity on careers, and accountability in developing the talent pipeline. Career breadth and depth is as important as moving upwards. Companies that support authenticity , build resilience and support staff are more likely to succeed in helping their female staff to be inspired, build good networks and being knowledgable.
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Helena Drakakis is a journalist for betterWholesaling. Liaising with some of the leading suppliers and industry experts, she aims to bring wholesalers the best advice, latest news and inspiration.

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