Retailers gather at House of Lords to launch search for 2015 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors

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This week over one hundred retailers gathered at the House of Lords to kick off the drive to find the 2015 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors. Sponsored by Salesforce, the evening reception was hosted by Baroness Verma, herself a retail entrepreneur before her call to politics. It offered an opportunity to hear from both companies who champion greater gender inclusion at the top of the retail industry, as well as from past Ambassadors who have seen their careers soar since having their talents recognised through this programme.

With 80% of household purchasing decisions made or influenced by women, having senior decision makers that reflect and understand the customer base is essential for any successful retail business. But as long as only 5% of senior management and board positions are held by women, disaster looms for those retailers who don’t do more to develop their female talent, the award organisers warn.

By 2022, due to anticipated retail growth, the industry will require an additional 60,000 managers. This is why the 2015 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassador programme was launched – to uncover talented successful female retailers, role models who will inspire more women to consider a career in the industry.

Maxine Benson, co-founder of everywoman, said: “This programme invites retailers to nominate the role models working in their business, we want to showcase them and the businesses they work for. We are looking for women whose dedication, energy and achievements demonstrate that retail can be an exciting and rewarding, career, rather than just a job. I urge anyone who is going over and above to achieve success, to apply.”

Melissa Di Donato, area vice president for EMEA and Asia Pacific, Salesforce, spoke of the shared customer-centric ethos across the retail and technology sectors. “Customers are at the core of everything we do, just like retail,” she said. “It is essential for us therefore to have diversity in our workforces, not just as a good thing to do, but because research shows it guarantees a better return on investment. I always think ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’ and that is why this initiative is so important.”

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: “The UK has one of the most dynamic, innovative retail industries in the world, as demonstrated by the huge demand for British brands. This programme not only highlights womens’ achievement but asks them to do something else – be a role model, share and inspire others into retail careers.”

The 2015 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors programme is supported by companies who champion women in business generally, and retail in particular: Asda, Worldpay, Santander, Salesforce. The Ambassadors will be selected by a judging panel comprising some of the industry’s most respected retailers, including Meg Lustman, chief executive, Hobbs, Carrie Rubin, director, Pentland Group and Jo Delbridge, director of public relations, Specsavers. Women can enter themselves, or be nominated by others and it is free to enter here. The deadline is 18 May.

The 2015 Ambassadors will be unveiled at a reception at Claridge’s in London on 17 September 2015.