For much of my long career, sadly there has been a prevailing view that women in business are being held back by their gender.
The day I took the last exam for my Business degree, was the day Margaret Thatcher was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Britain. Whether you agreed with her views or not, it felt amazing and inspiring for a woman to have achieved this.
From that day on, I had a belief that if a grocer’s daughter from Grantham could do this, then a plumber’s daughter from Douglas should be able to do anything she set her mind to.
And so began my career in the wonderfully egalitarian meritocracy that was world retailing in the 80s, 90s, and noughties.
At 24, I headed up the main distribution team for Littlewoods Stores in the North of England. Moving to Halfords the next year, I soon headed up stock control and distribution on automotive parts and accessories across the UK. By 28, I was Head of Buying for Halfords (often considered the “blue riband” role in retailing), leading a team of buyers for car products and bikes.
We scoured the world to deliver innovation, enhance quality and discover products that drove major sales and profitability growth. Developing the service centre (garage) business came next and when Boots took us over, I became General Manager of Halfords Automotive Business, as part of the Boots worldwide Senior Team. As development for a new role, heading up a much larger division of Boots, I was due to leave for Harvard to complete a Boots sponsored MBA, when my Mum died prematurely and unexpectedly.
My world was rocked. I returned home to the Island, to work out the large dent in my life that resulted.
I have had a great time back on the Island using my skills and experience for Shoprite, various charities, IOM Enterprises, Chamber of Commerce, and being the CEO responsible for the TT Centenary in 2007. Very recently I’ve qualified as an Executive Coach and Mentor, to support and inspire business people, aspiring politicians and community leaders and founders to develop skill sets that will help develop and sustain the Island for future generations.
Large elements of my career to date have been spent in industries, possibly considered unusual for a female – stock control and distribution, automotive buying, developing Halfords Service Centres, Promoting Formula 3000 racing around Birmingham, developing and delivering the TT Races, leading a high pressured retail IT development and support team, developing domestic and commercial property portfolios and more.
I have done all of this, not to prove something to the thousands of men, and women, I have lead, developed, worked with and learnt from in my career, but to prove to myself that if you want your “why” enough, and are prepared to work hard, think differently, adapt, make time for and appreciate people, be brave, admit your mistakes, stay curious and keep feeding your growth mindset by “learn, learn, and learn some more”, and of course laugh every day, then you will succeed, always.
A tiny note of caution, you may not end up succeeding at exactly what you set out for. I can guarantee, that I never set out to be Head of Buying for Halfords or running the TT Races, but I loved doing it, loved the people I worked with and genuinely ‘had a blast’.
So this International Women’s Day, why not start thinking about what you truly want for your life and career.
Here are 6 good places to start:
- Think really hard about your ‘why’. Start by watching Simon Sinek’s TED talk “Finding your why”. Write yours down and refer to it every time you have a choice to make in your life. Improve it as you learn.
- Find 5 people you admire, that are different to you and spend time with them. Experience what can be learnt so quickly from people who don’t think like you do. An easy start is to follow me on LinkedIn.
- Do something that is way outside your comfort zone and see how it feels. Put yourself out there and challenge your beliefs and fears. This is a great opportunity to learn about yourself, so take it.
- Build relationships with everyone that you meet. Chat, help people relax, ask for help, be interested in them, above all listen. Build your tribe.
- Read ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck – and realise that cultivating a ‘growth mindset’, a thirst for knowledge, curiosity and a “can do” attitude is the real secret to success.
- ‘To thine own self-be true’. Forget your gender, your age, your fitness levels. Be the best version of yourself that you can and go after your “why” with every ounce of positivity and laughter you possess.
I read a long time ago that ‘the only barriers are those we place on our own minds’, so start stripping away old barriers that no longer serve you, and choose instead, to create YOUR new, exciting future.