COMMENT: What do women bring to the retail industry?

Laura Heyworth, store manager at Sofology's Bolton branch, shares her insight and advice for other aspiring women in the retail industry this International Women’s Day.

Women retail

In the stores, boardrooms and head offices of major retail companies across the nation, women are really making a difference.

Having worked for Sofology for eight years, I now manage the largest team in the region at the Bolton store. I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges women face in the retail sector and have benefited from many of the advantages of having female leaders.

I wanted to share my experiences this International Women’s Day, to show the impact women have on business and hopefully inspire other females to follow their dreams within the retail sector.

Women shape the retail industry

More women need to be celebrated in retail and not discouraged – we bring diversity to the industry, which should be a real source of pride. Having women in leadership positions boosts results, develops new ideas, offers a different perspective and ultimately creates a more rounded working environment.

I like to think of myself as a very optimistic leader and believe female managers within the company foster a really positive environment, which can only be a good thing for business and those working in the sector.

“More women need to be celebrated in retail and not discouraged.”

The most important lesson I’ve learnt throughout my career so far is to create a good environment for your team. Every store that I’ve been in, I want people to look forward to coming into work like I do. From that, I want to create a fun and approachable environment where they can come to me if they have any issues. I believe through that approach, my team will have belief in themselves as well.

Believe in yourself

If I were to give women starting out in retail today one piece of advice, it would be to believe in yourself, have confidence and learn from your mistakes. Around six years ago, I was working in sales when I realised that I wanted to forward my career and progress in the industry to management level.

The first time I applied for a management position, I didn’t get the role. As the only female applicant going up against six other men, it was a daunting process, but the experience gave me the drive to try again.

I moved to a bigger store, which helped build my confidence and gave me the opportunity to work with a larger team. I worked hard at this for two years until I was given the responsibility of managing the team. This helped me to learn and grow in confidence and I now manage the largest team in the region. If I hadn’t had the courage to apply in the first place and the determination to keep working towards my goal, I would never be where I am today.

There’s still a long way to go

“I’d like to see more women in senior roles across all areas.”

Despite increasing numbers of women becoming successful in the retail industry and now leading in management roles, there’s still a long way to go. There’s still an imbalance in a range of departments within the industry as a whole. I’d like to see more women in senior roles across all areas from logistics, to IT and technicians across the retail environment.

It’s okay to make mistakes

Have the confidence and know you can do it. If you make mistakes, it’s okay, you will learn from them. Throughout my journey I’ve made mistakes, but there’s always been someone there to help and support me through it.

If I went back to correct one now, it would be to find the right mix for my work/life balance at the time. I would learn from that and share the view with other people as well, to help them be happier with their own balance.

At Sofology, we’ve got a diverse team in place, making it a great place for women to thrive. Not only is it fun, it’s approachable and it’s fair.

Now that Sally Hopson has joined as chief executive, we’ve got a strong female leader to follow too, which I think will give other women the encouragement to progress as well.

Laura Heyworth is the Store Manager at Sofology’s Bolton branch

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  1. Whilst not wishing to decry womens’ roles in retail at all levels, the observations and advice contained within this article were familiar 40 years ago when the industry was predominantly managed by men. I think that Retail is best managed by people who have received, absorbed and effect best practice, much of which is outlined by Laura Heyworth. It is right that women should be celebrated and encouraged within the industry, but no more so than a man should. Everyone should sink or swim as a result of their own efforts and results, if I were a woman, I wouldn’t want it any other way.


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