International Women's Day 2021
International Women's Day 2021

International Women's Day 2021

#ChooseToChallenge - We asked, and they responded. Read the thoughts of some of our most inspiring leaders at Workwear Group.

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change. So let's all choose to challenge.

This year at Workwear Group, recognition of International Women's Day transcends the 8th March by running a number of activities throughout the month to celebrate, educate and acknowledge this year's theme of #ChooseToChallenge. 

To kick things off, we took the opportunity to ask a number of successful women and men within the business questions about their personal experiences and which female role models inspire them. Here are some of their responses.

Leanne C - Ethical Compliance Manager

I #ChooseToChallenge gender inequalities and bias. I have the privilege of working with a number of stakeholders globally, and have a better insight into the challenges women face worldwide.

15 months ago, Workwear Group supported me in achieving my career goals by expanding my position to take on Ethical sourcing & Human rights. I’m passionate about Human rights and I am supported by management to excel in all areas and break down any barriers, particularly in this space.

Malala Yousafzai inspires me because she is speaking up for the rights of those who have no voice. She bravely holds a lamp for girls to be educated around the world. Her unwavering commitment to her values, even before she was recognised as a global sensation. Malala's shown it just takes one voice to make a change.

Suzie L - Group Health, Safety, Well-being & Sustainability Manager

I have two teenage boys – one is very respectful of women and their role and their strength, and the other lad’s attitude has been: boys are better than girls. We have had many red-hot debates about men and women, and how our differences should be celebrated and not compared to each other, or to compete with each other. I carry this philosophy into the workplace. I might not be changing the world, but I’m (hopefully) changing my world.

Many years ago, I worked in a male dominated industry and realised, very early on, that I would never be able to go toe-to-toe with the men – I would not be accepted as one of them even if I did. So I decided to embrace my “femaleness” with all of her qualities and compassion and strength and humility. I’ve brought this into anywhere I have worked, and because I’m true to myself, I have confidence in myself. Workwear Group has accepted me as I am, and I have been able to be very honest with what I’m looking for in my career. And I have been supported. About 2 years ago, I expressed that I was looking for something more and here I am driving our sustainability agenda! I haven’t encountered any barriers, but I have owned my career, spoken up if I see an opportunity and have been supported the whole way.

My role model would have to be Michelle Obama. I read her book Becoming, and it gave me such comfort that a woman of her calibre and position in the world could need similar things to what I need, have similar doubts to those that creep in sometimes, and was true to herself. Her passion for a cause, her integrity, her compassion… and she wasn’t afraid to show it and put it into action, when all she wanted was a gooey cheese sandwich from the microwave.

Doug S - Group General Manager

Workwear Group is committed to celebrating and championing our female talent. To me, #ChooseToChallenge is a great reminder to challenge myself on what more I can be doing to have a positive impact in this space. We have amazing female talent at Workwear Group, so I will continue to search for every opportunity to shine a spotlight on this amazing talent.

I feel very lucky to have Carly and Sheila on my team. I would hope they feel completely empowered to grow and develop in a way that aligns with their interests. I also actively invest in the development of all my team. I look for opportunities to expose them to experiences that will challenge them and assist their development, whether that be through new challenges in their role, exposure to other leaders, or formal development programs.

There have been no barriers that immediately come to mind, which is hopefully a good sign rather than a sign of me being ignorant to it. But I have and will continue to educate myself on what gets in the way and would only ask for feedback from the business if they think we could be doing something better.

My wife and daughter immediately come to mind as inspirational role models. My daughter Jessica in particular - Jess is 16, totally committed to school and sport, doing amazingly well, and participating in so many extra curricular activities. All the while with a happy face and a can-do attitude. I don’t know where she gets the energy and discipline from, and I find myself often saying to her how she inspires me to want to be a better person. She’s an absolutely delightful person.

Linstel D - Senior Product Manager

#ChooseToChallenge fixed mindsets and old school mentalities.

Coming into a business that is predominately male dominated industry, I found that my way of working/principles to been questioned as I am an out of the box thinker.

Indira Nooyi (for those of you who don’t know her she has been integral in transforming Pepsi for the last decade/while increasing market share by 80%). What inspires me is about this person is her humble beginnings.

Communication is Key at all levels, Never taking ‘No’ for an answer, always focused, driven and challenging the norms and seeing the simplicity in every barrier. Having a vision that is focused not only on the current products/business structure but looking at the market/cultural shifts.

Diane F - Head of CX Digital Production Strategy

To me, #ChooseToChallenge means challenging the social norms in the way in which the world has traditionally viewed women. I personally #ChooseToChallenge the view that women have to look or act a certain way to be successful in their corporate careers. From my own experience, the social norm for women with my aesthetic is that we are all mindless Barbie dolls that may be better suited to a career in which we are judged on appearance rather than intelligence and experience in business. I was finding my feet in my career in which female leaders were considered to be “bossy” rather than a “boss” and to get ahead you had to be unemotional, bitchy and a ballbreaker, or “one of the guys”.

I #ChooseToChallenge that norm. I believe women can be warm, vulnerable, incredible listeners, collaborators and therefore strong leaders and I believe that a woman can sometimes use these innate abilities to be much better managers than some of their male counterparts. Women can look any way they choose, and act in the way they sit fit to achieve whatever they want to in their career. I #ChooseToChallenge that they do not have to look or act in any particular way to do so, just as you would not expect a man to look or act in any particular way to be successful in achieving their corporate career aspirations.

I have received great support from my two managers on the SLT to do what I need to do to achieve success in my role here at Workwear Group. Both have allowed me to be the expert in my field, speak freely up and down the chain and act as a leader to take the business toward a customer focused view of our service delivery and digital products. Unlike other workplaces, I have never felt that my gender plays any role in helping or hindering me in my success. I have felt listened to and supported to achieve my goals as a professional – not as a woman. And that to me speaks volumes. There shouldn’t be any difference between myself or a male colleague.

I really love the teachings of Brené Brown. She’s an American professor who through her own unwillingness to be vulnerable enough to admit she didn’t know everything, ironically found the power in being vulnerable, particularly as a leader. We all have our own stories and experiences that we can own, and use them to teach others while continuing to learn. And those that have the ability to open their minds to new ways of thinking, dare to lead, be bold in what we do and be open to making mistakes have historically been those to make the biggest changes to the way in which others live, do everyday things, or the way in which we do business. Those lessons are what I take on board and strive to model here at Workwear Group. I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to learn, willing to listen, willing to share and to dare to lead and be bold in making positive changes for our customers, our business and our team. I’m grateful for every opportunity to embrace courage over comfort and that’s something Brené Brown speaks to in her teachings of leadership that resonate regardless of gender.

Michelle S - Head of Delivery

I am about challenging the status quo. I like to ask why first. I will continue to do ask questions, to learn and be informed but also to open up people’s minds and help them challenge as well.

There are always barriers. I work in a male dominated group and the biggest barrier will always be diversity – not just gender, but all diversity.

Marie Curie is a role model that inspires me. Innovative, intelligent, and she got out and did things. She wasn’t scared to have an opinion in a very male dominated environment, extraordinarily successful given her time (late 1800’s - early 1900’s) and gender.

Laura H - Head of Supply Chain

I #ChooseToChallenge the perceived ‘norms’ or misrepresentations about women in the workforce. That just because you might be a wife and mother, doesn’t mean you can’t also be an executive or director. That just because you are a woman, doesn’t mean the natural path for you to follow is getting married and having kids and if you don’t, then you are too ambitious. I #ChooseToChallenge that having empathy and being kind, doesn’t mean you can’t do the job as well as any other person. I #ChooseToChallenge that as a woman, I may do things differently to a man but that doesn’t make it wrong or mean I won’t get it done.

Workwear Group has supported me by giving me the freedom to be who I am and trusting me to be a leader in my own way, with my own style. I am grateful for the entire Supply Chain Team, who don’t see me as a ‘Female’ Leader, just as one of the team – as it should be.

I have so many women that inspire me that it is hard to pick just one! My own Mum, who worked every day until her 67th birthday and at times was the sole provider and she never missed a beat – she was at every netball game, tennis match, dance concert, piano lesson and encouraged me to become who I am today. My female friends, who also balance being a wife, mother and leaders, breaking those glass ceilings. Single Mum’s, who I am in awe of, as I know I don’t have the strength they do. To all the women who have gone first, so that we can follow in their footsteps. It shows me that if I want something, I can do it despite the challenges… And it drives me to hopefully be an inspiration for someone else someday.

Erman D - Head of Sourcing, Quality & Compliance

I #ChooseToChallenge pledge for gender equality, we are all equal citizens of humanity. Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

I try to ensure that there is a healthy gender balance and diversity of cultural heritage within our team, in fact 76% of our team members are women. I believe achievement is based on merit not gender and we are blessed to have so many talented, motivated women within our team that are achieving extraordinary results, and they are encouraged to be open and honest and share their views in a completely safe environment.

Every day I see a strong sisterhood, balanced with laughter, support for each and resilience. I am blown away by the sheer courage and strength that some of these women in the team demonstrate on a daily basis to overcome personal adversities. The up-most respect goes out to you.

My role is to provide advocacy, mentorship, soft sounding clarity on our north star and empower the women in our cohort to be the best they can be. We have minimum standards and we do not, and will not tolerate any discrimination.

If I am to pick one inspirational role model it would be my wife, but she would be embarrassed if I shared why she inspires me, so I will choose my mum. Like all mums, my mum is an incredible women. She married young at 16 and for personal safety reasons had to flee her homeland with my dad. She left her loved ones, her friends and started a new life in England. I guess she had to grow up fast in the east end of London which at the time was one of the poorest parts of the UK.

My parents then took a gamble, hustled, worked hard and eventually started their own clothing factory employing mainly women from diverse cultural backgrounds from all corners of the globe. For 3 decades they essentially had the same work force, and I didn’t realise it then, but I for sure realise it now, that my mum was ahead of her time, a true global role model of humanity. She nurtured those women, supported them and became their second family.

My mum, like so many women, is so graceful, she is tough when she needs to be tough, she is determined and there is no stopping her when she is on a mission! Above all, she has a massive heart and an amazing soul that continues to inspire me. Thank you Mum for looking out for my daughter (my 3rd female role model that inspires me) in the UK these past 15 months - Happy International Women’s Day Everyone!

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