First WiW Star Awards conclude successful 4th year conference

First WiW Star Awards conclude successful 4th year conference

Four trailblazing women alongside one wholesaler have become the deserving recipients of the first Women in Wholesale Star Awards.

The awards, which celebrate top talent in the sector, were handed to winners at the close of a 4th successful conference for the initiative, which saw more than 200 delegates gather in central London.

Sue Mann, Group Marketing Manager at JW Filshill (pictured below, centre), whose video campaign for National Women’s Day was described by judges as a “brilliant initiative”won Best Newcomer of the Year. “Sue has been a real catalyst in the development of the business,” judges said.

Ramsden International’s Operations Manager Leanne Parkin (pictured below, centre) won Inclusive Manager of the Year, in particular for her revamp of her company’s sales system which saved 200 hours work for her staff.

Judges also noted: “She is a problem solver – buying a one-handed keyboard to support a staff member with a wrist injury is truly proactive.”

Castell Howell’s Sales and Marketing Director Kathryn Jones (pictured below, centre) scooped Woman of the Year, with judges commenting that her work, in particular her mentoring women “needs to be seen and heard in the industry”.

“She’s clearly invested a lot of time and money into training and development; with some innovative ways in doing so such as her work with young farmers and secondary schools,” they noted.

Pricecheck’s Managing Director Debbie Harrison (pictured below, left) came away with Leader of the Year. Described as “in a league of her own”, she has worked to raise the visibility of wholesale as well as push new boundaries within Pricecheck.

“The fact that her apprentices want to stay and work at Pricecheck goes to show they are making wholesale attractive and exciting,” judges said.

Finally, JJ Foodservice (team pictured below) came away with Best Initiative to Attract and Retain Talent. Its Women in the Warehouse campaign was described as “an industry first” alongside praise for its Family Reward Scheme which gives employees big discounts on popular high street brands.

Judges were also impressed with the new ‘JJ Breakfast club’ set up to support and develop aspiring female leaders.

Introducing the day-long event, WiW Founder and Organiser Elit Rowland said: “In 2016 we were hard pushed to see women at industry events. It’s amazing to see how much we’ve grown in four years.

Every year we push the bar higher with fantastic speakers, unrivalled expert insight, and now our Star awards to honour top female talent.” 

This year’s conference, themed around boosting personal and business performance, saw a diverse range of speakers and panel discussions, all with a unique industry perspective.

NatWest’s Head of Tech, Neil Bellamy, kicked off the day with a talk on the importance of technology in enabling a “liquid workforce” which is more agile, project-based and ahead of the disruptors.     

Other speakers included Costco’s HR & Training Development Manager Dominic Flanagan who challenged delegates to address their unconscious bias; Budweiser’s Convenience Sales Director Jessica Markowski championed Budweiser’s emphasis on people as its most important asset;

Phil Hoskins, HR Director at exporter Ramsden International emphasised the need to be succinct and to set goals to succeed, and Carlsberg’s account controller Helen Rimmer tackled impostor syndrome.

Changing sector attitudes since the WiW initiative launched were highlighted by Laura Joyce, Client Manager at HIM & MCA insight, who partnered with WiW to reveal exclusive research.

Findings showed that while flexible working has been embraced by the sector compared to 2017, lack of respect at work is still being seen as an issue. 53% of females also emphasised the need for better career development. “We need to be constantly relevant, inclusive and diverse,” she said.

In a session themed around skills, Central England chief executive officer and former Spar Managing Director Debbie Robinson described her 25-year career journey. She also shared her passion for social justice initiatives such as Co-op’s work with Fareshare to provide holiday-time meals to children.

Interactive sessions were led by Esther Shearwood from The Gap Partnership, who gave the audience a crash course in negotiation. Meanwhile, resilience trainer Carol Dakin focused on strength, patience, emotional intelligence and purpose as key resilience-building attributes.

This year’s guest speaker, executive coach Carol Glover, highlighted the need for employers to embrace mavericks who think differently within their organisation. “Being true to myself has been key to everything I’ve ever done,” she said, before giving delegates tips on time management that allow creativity to flourish at work.

In two lively panel sessions, the first chaired by the FWD’s James Bielby and the second by the ACS’s James Lowman saw a total of eight industry representatives exchange tips for driving careers and businesses forward and fostering an inclusive workplace culture.

Judges for the Star Awards composed of FWD chief executive office James Bielby; HIM & MCA managing director Jill Livesey; Better Wholesaling editor Paul Hill and GS1 engagement manager Sarah Hawkes.

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