By Natasha Hunter, Colleague Experience Marketer

As part of our International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations we’re exploring being ‘each for equal’. What does that mean? In simple terms it means taking individual responsibility for our thoughts and actions – actively choosing to challenge gender stereotypes, fight bias and celebrate women’s achievements.

I met up with Tina Mitchell, Divisional Managing Director and Andy Perry Supply Chain and Logistics Director, who both champion gender equality in their business areas. They shared their thoughts on why it’s important Co-op celebrates IWD.

Why do we celebrate IWD at Co-op?

Tina: “It’s really important that we continue to celebrate IWD because in the busy world we live in, it’s a moment to slow down and think about where we are, where we’ve come from and what else we can do to improve the chances of success for women across our business and communities.”

Andy: “All of us should celebrate IWD – endless inclusion is one of our behaviours after all and it’s a chance to take stock and reflect on whether we’re doing enough to truly build a gender equal business. Not only that, it’s proven that gender balanced businesses across the world are more successful too.”

How gender balanced is Co-op?

Tina: “The IWD events over the past few years have got bigger and better and we’re making them more inclusive by going across the length and breadths of the country. But if we move the dial even further we’ve got the potential to be recognised as a really great and inclusive business.”

Andy: “Data collection gives us an indication of how well we’re doing. We’ve increased representation of women in senior leadership roles to 34%, which is a step in the right direction but clearly there’s plenty more to do. That said, it goes well beyond data. It’s about how we behave in everyday interactions and conversations, including how we challenge gender stereotypes around things like historically male or female job roles.”

Tina: “To add to Andy’s point, it’s about ensuring the best candidate gets the role regardless of gender, but for that to happen, the right conditions need to be in place to give everyone a fair shot and an equal opportunity to succeed.”

Andy: “Exactly, we’ve got tons of examples of female leaders who are flying in the business, so it’s not about doing it in a tokenistic way to hit a stat, it’s about the best person getting the role because there’s no barriers in place to stop them getting the job.”


How do you role model inclusivity with your teams?

Andy: “First of all I’m quite daunted to answer the question in front of Tina because she talked at a recent logistics leadership event and blew the room away with her thoughts on inclusion! What I try to do is surround myself with a range of leaders who have different thought leadership styles to myself as that helps challenge me in a positive way. We all have unconscious bias so it’s about being self-aware and calling it out and dealing with it when we witness behaviours that aren’t right.”

Tina: “Absolutely- the days of a ‘mini-me’ who’d nod along with everything you say are long gone, but to encourage different thought leadership styles, you also need to create the right conditions by ensuring there’s also psychological safety where people can speak up without fear of consequence. A good analogy is to compare to organ rejection in the body after an operation – unless the conditions in the body are right, the organ won’t survive. We need to create the right environment to empower our brilliant women and build their confidence to speak up and fulfil their true potential.”

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