By Akeem Akinleye, Area Manager, Food
Career progression has always been one of my top priorities. When I joined Co-op 10 years ago, I saw very few leaders anywhere in the business who looked like me, but I’m happy to see that this is now starting to change.
I work in our Food business and over the last decade I’ve worked my way up through the ranks.
I’ve always been lucky to have had managers who’ve been committed to supporting my career development and this is something I’m passionate about doing for my team too – we all need somebody to support us and cheer us on.
Since getting my first taste of a more senior leadership role, I’ve also done another secondment supporting new store openings and refits in London. The opportunities I’ve had to explore different types of roles have helped me to understand where my strengths lie, and I’ve recently made a decision to focus on progressing within the store operations structure.
Building a more inclusive Co-op
Our Co-op has always had a really diverse colleague population in our stores, but we’ve traditionally struggled to transform this huge strength into real benefits for the business – but things are definitely changing for the better now.
We’ve got a team here at Co-op who are focused on diversity and inclusion and driving change. Hopefully you’ve seen our Commitment to Racial Equality and Inclusion that recently launched. Diversity and Inclusion is taken seriously and earlier this year, I attended the first ever Co-op diversity event for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) colleagues in London.
Importantly, we’re starting to see more Black leaders coming through the ranks. In May, I was the first Area Manager appointed using the new remote recruitment process designed to comply with social distancing measures in the East Sussex area. The next day in our area another Black colleague was also appointed to an Area Manager role. So we’re making progress as a business, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
Our commitment to support Black, Asian and colleagues from other minority ethnic groups
We know that the overall the representation of BAME colleagues at senior levels is still too small but we have a commitment to tackle this. We’re going to double the representation of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic leaders and managers by the end of 2022, moving from 3% to 6%, and then to 10% by 2025.
Personally, I know I can help to build those crucial connections with our communities that will help to attract more diverse talent and continue to improve Black representation in our Co-op leadership teams.
Let’s see what progress we’ll make in the next decade!