International Women’s Day 2017 was a big day for the Co-op, for not only did it give us the opportunity to celebrate the talented women within our organisation, but our Aspire women’s career network turned 5 years old.
Our Aspire network was established to support both female and male colleagues who wish to be pro-active and take the rein in their personal and career development. The Aspire network is fully inclusive, but our focus is on women as we know that women are significantly under-represented in senior management and leadership roles within the UK.
International Women’s Day is recognised globally as a day to celebrate women, to commemorate the movement for women’s rights, to shine a light on where things could improve and to encourage us all to get involved and show support.
This year’s theme was #BeBoldForChange – a call to us to do what we can to support women’s progress. At the Co-op we believe this doesn’t have to be a huge goal, it can be as simple as a pledge to be authentic, to be yourself always or to be a leader regardless of your job title.
A day of celebrations
Our IWD2017 began at EY’s networking breakfast hosted by the North-West branch of their women’s network. The session concentrated on supporting young people to see that there are options beyond traditional further education. EY run a school leaver’s scheme similar to our own apprenticeship scheme which offers high-quality training, qualifications and salaries which are paid at the rate for the role rather than the National Minimum Apprentice wage.
At lunchtime, we hosted an Aspire and Co-op women in property lunchtime session. As my day job is in Estates I’m passionate about supporting gender diversity within this industry, as a result I have introduced a year-long programme of lunchtime education sessions covering the different areas of Estates. It’s open to men and women, but we’re using female subject matter experts to lead the sessions as a way of improving visibility of women in this male-dominated industry. These sessions allow colleagues to learn about teams they might not normally work with and to network face-to-face with colleagues they may only ever email.
The day of events was concluded with our 5th birthday party which we celebrated with colleagues and friends while enjoying a fantastic line up of speakers including Nick Crofts and Jo Whitfield, who talked us through her journey to Interim Co-op Food CEO.
Aspire Woman of the Year
At the end of the evening we announced the recipient of our Woman of the Year Award. Each year our Aspire Steering Group nominate a member of the team who has gone above and beyond in helping us deliver what Aspire members want from us.
This year’s winner was Annette Joseph, from Co-op Digital. Her manager, Jamie Arnold, described Annette and her win in the following words: “I’m so happy you’ve recognised Annette. She is amazing, brave, creative, straight talking and always pushing herself and others to improve. Lots of respect for Annette” and we couldn’t agree more.
Celebrating Aspire’s 5th birthday on International Women’s Day was a great start to the busy year we have planned. We have some bold objectives lined up for 2017 that we look forward to updating you on.
Chair of the Aspire network