women in wholesale

Elit Rowland on why women in wholesale shouldn’t be afraid of taking decisions that make their heart pound.

One of the most frustrating things I come across at work is people waiting for permission to do something, even when they know that it’s the right thing to do.

Granted, there are many situations where things can’t just happen at the click of a finger. But, there are also instances where the only thing that’s stopping people is a bit of courage – it’s here that women often falter.

A good example of how far courage can take you is Harriet Minter’s launch of the Women in Leadership section of The Guardian. Did you know that her boss initially said ‘no’ to the idea?

Minter’s vision for the supplement came to her during day-to-day interviews for the paper, where she met enough inspiring women to want to push for a supplement featuring the UK’s top female talent. Despite her boss’ reserve, she ploughed on with the idea. It ended up being a huge success and her boss – eventually – congratulated her on it.

Minter told that story at last year’s Women in Wholesale conference. When she did, it occurred to me that we are at a similar stage in wholesale: we know we have to get better at supporting and progressing women through the talent pipeline, but we need the confidence and courage to make the big decisions.

The truth is we have plenty of women working in wholesale – almost 50% of the workforce – but we struggle to retain them. So what can we do?

Last month, Women in Wholesale launched a report that contained six steps for nurturing and developing talent. Now, we are inviting all businesses to choose at least one to act on, which is why our theme for the year is ‘Make It Happen’.

But, make no mistake: taking decisions can be tough. Also speaking at last year’s Women in Wholesale conference, Spar (UK)’s managing director Debbie Robinson urged delegates to have more courage. She said that she doesn’t end a day without feeling her “heart rattle in her chest”. Decision-making can be nerve wracking, it’s true. But feeling your heart pound doesn’t mean that you are making the wrong decision.

I take calculated risks all the time. Someone told me last year that I couldn’t BBQ a Christmas turkey, so I did my research, had a few trial runs, and on Christmas Day, I was out in the freezing cold with a 5kg turkey on hot coals. It was the best festive risk I’d ever taken and it became a fantastic talking point around my dinner table.

Back in wholesale, I’m using the same courage and confidence to organise the first Women in Wholesale mentoring initiative. Just as I did with the BBQ turkey, I’m doing my research – I want to introduce a mentoring initiative that has meaning and that works.

Wholesale leaders – I would love to get you involved in this. Please also keep me informed of which six steps your business will address, as we’ll be inviting people to showcase their progress at the next Women in Wholesale conference, which will take place in October.

It’s not easy to change the status quo. But sometimes it can also be far easier and more rewarding than you expect. Take Minter and Robinson’s advice – feel your heart pound in your chest, and you’ll be blown away with what you can achieve by the end of the day for yourself, your business and your industry. What will your business do to ‘Make It Happen’?

Elit Rowland is the founder of the Women in Wholesale initiative.


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