First Women of Retail and Consumer: 2012 shortlists

Run in association with Land Rover, itself an iconic British brand, the First Women of Retail and Consumer are pioneering new models and ways of working in some of our best-known businesses; and among our least-known, too:

Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish have given a voice to a previously hidden category of business: Britain’s small, creative businesses. Notonthehighstreet.com, which they launched in 2006, brings together 2,500 independent enterprises in a dynamic online marketplace, selling more than 49,000 products on the site. It’s reckoned that more than 4,000 employees work for notonthehighstreet partner businesses. The entrepreneurial pair have also led technical innovation, developing unique technology that allows shoppers to check-out with just one online basked filled from a number of showcased storefronts. Sophie and Holly also train and coach start-up entrepreneurs, and have founded the Make Awards in 2011.

Margaret Casely-Heyford is director of legal services and company secretary at the £8.5bn, 83,000-employee John Lewis Partnership (JLP). Margaret manages JLP’s unusual co-owned legal structure, ensuring compatibility of a written constitution with conventional company legislation. She has been involved in ground-breaking internal communications work at JLP, and has guided John Lewis through planning processes for many new Waitrose and John Lewis stores and store extensions. Originally a barrister, in 1998 she became the first black partner at Dentons and, it is believed, the first black female partner of a large City law firm. She sits on the board of the British Retail Consortium.

Karen Hubbard joined Asda in 2009 as operations director for supermarkets, leading the development of small-format outlets – a new and challenging territory for Asda. In achieving this, she delivered a first for the sector – a small-format store with the same low prices as its larger formats. Today, as director for supermarkets, she has led the acquisition and transformation of more than 130 former Netto stores (and integration of almost 3,000 Netto colleagues into the Asda family). Karen leads Asda’s diversity steering group, ensuring all colleagues can progress in their roles. Just some of the initiatives are: mum-to-mum mentoring; a mentoring academy; and business breakfasts where female leaders can hear from other leaders about their experiences.

KPMG’s head of retail Helen Dickinson is the Big 4 firm’s most quoted partner in any sector. Described by a colleague as “no ivory tower consultant”, she is a respected media commentator, hand-on “service provider” (her phrase) who talks retailers’ language. “She’s a skater, smoker, snappy dresser and has strong views. She’s come through with her self intact.” Early in her career, she was the only female at senior manager level in KPMG’s industrial and consumer division. Spotted as a real talent by Sarah Charles (then one of very few female KPMG partners), she was taken right out of her comfort zone to install a new IT system for a client. She’s since spearheaded the development of KPMG’s retail sector in Europe, introducing industry-based teams, and helping retailers evolve to new consumer styles. Helen mentors many female managers within the firm, and has a clear vision for women in business: “Seld-promotion doesn’t come naturally to many women, but the skills can be learned. Enough of the self-doubt! Keep polishing the positives.”

Winners of the First Women Awards 2012 will be announced at an amazing awards ceremony on June 28, 2012 at the Grand Connaught Rooms, hosted by BBC presenter Clare Balding. 

First Women Awards supporters include: BAE Systems, Benenden Healthcare Society, Centrica, COINS, Harvey Nash, ICAEW, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Land Rover and the Financial Mail.

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