By Juliet Mulholland, Customer Service Manager

Today is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

International Women’s Day evolved from a number of marches in the early 1900s when women were campaigning against poor working conditions, pay inequality, poor education and a lack of the vote.

Thankfully since then, a good deal of progress has been made in women’s rights and equality, but there’s still work to do on the global pay gap, universal votes for women in every society, the level of violence against women, especially in the home, and the lack of gender equality in the business boardroom, government and across society.

This year the focus is on #BreakTheBias which is encouraging us all to actively call out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it.

I wanted to share my career journey because throughout it I’ve faced into some adversity, as many of us do, but have broken the bias and have ended up in a career and in a sector which I probably wouldn’t have thought possible if you’d asked me when I started work.

At the start of my career I worked in a cinema because it enabled me to work in an industry I loved, having wanted to be a film director. I worked my way up to the position of Operations Manager at site-level, overseeing the retail department within the branch, where 85% of the management team were female.

In almost no time at all I found myself working as a Deputy Manager in a company where management teams were predominantly male. The pay was significantly better, but due to it being a physically demanding environment, female colleagues were often under-valued and spoken down to by senior management solely because of their gender. I didn’t want to reinforce the bias or appear a ‘quitter’ so despite being mostly exhausted and unhappy, I gave it my all for two years before deciding that no amount of money compensates for the lack of job satisfaction.

After doing my research and learning about Co-op’s ethical approach, I applied to work in a store. In my few years in this store I also become a Member Pioneer, before moving to a store a bit closer to home. Transferring there gave me even more of an opportunity to shine and my proudest Co-op moment to date is being elected by members from across the East of England onto the National Members Council.

I loved working in our stores but a restructure in mid-2021 directly affected me. I love Co-op and what it stands for, so leaving the business wasn’t even a consideration for me. I was fortunate enough to have a new-build flagship Retail Distribution Centre not far from me. I’d never worked in logistics before and had always thought of it as a “man’s world” but there was already a buzz about how many jobs it would create for the area, and it’s vision to be the most inclusive depot in the network, supported by various colleague centred facilities. 

So here I am, learning and loving working in logistics and making a difference. Who knows where my career will go next, but nothing will stand in my way.

If you’re facing any kind of discrimination within your workplace, speak to your line manager in the first instance, but if this isn’t possible please contact 0844 728 0165 or email h&bcomplaints@coop.co.uk who’ll be able to help you. You can also call our Employee Assistance Programme, Lifeworks, on 0800 069 8854.

At Co-op, Aspire is our colleague network of women and allies that advocates and co-operates for a fairer world for all women, now and in the future. This ensures women in Co-op feel welcome, valued and that they can succeed. If you’d like to join, you can sign up to the Aspire newsletter or email them at aspire@coop.co.uk.

How will you #BreakTheBias?