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Inspirational female colleagues share their experiences to mark International Women's Day

March 08, 2021 08:00 AM

This International Women’s Day we’re celebrating some of our inspirational female colleagues who are making a huge contribution to Asda across the UK.

Here Helen Mead, our Senior Director – Retail, and Carrie Henehan, our People Business Manager for North Scotland, write about their experiences with Asda.

Helen (pictured left) writes:

"I have been with Asda for 24 years and have had some amazing highs and a few big lows and learning curves. I am now a Senior Director in Retail and can remember a time years ago when that was something that seemed impossible. I’ve now been running regions for seven years, and it took me a long time to have the confidence and self-belief to know that I had earned my place and had real value to add, not only to my region but to the broader business. Now I am passionate about supporting and helping others who start a new journey but feel the infamous ‘imposter syndrome’

"After doing most roles in stores, I looked up to a fantastic group of male general store managers (GSMs) with loads to offer, lots of experience and never dreamed they would one day be peers. I was not so much tapped on the shoulder but more ‘pushed off a cliff’ into GSM development and am so grateful I was. After this, I stepped out of my comfort zone to run Communications in Home Office (something I had no background it but learnt fast) and then came out to run Supermarkets, Livings and three Superstore regions. Every time I have learnt something different, and every time I recognise I am not the finished article and can always learn, evolve and do better. I have also learnt to recognise my strengths, have more confidence in my ability and that actually it is a good thing to not know everything and to keep asking questions.

"At times I feel like I’m not doing enough and need to do more in work, or that I need to be a better Mum. I have to remind myself that it is a balance and actually I am good at both. That doesn’t mean the guilt goes away and trying to find time for other stuff e.g. exercising and looking after myself often takes a back seat.

"Throughout my career I have heard comments such as ‘you got the job because you are a woman’, ‘because you are pregnant’ and ‘there’s special treatment as a woman’ – and honestly, it hurts. But that is the minority of people and those are the micro-aggressions that I choose to challenge. I have built great networks, friendships, have learnt loads from my peers, and continue to do so.

"So, what’s next – who knows? All I know is that it's tough, challenging, frustrating at times ... and flipping brilliant! I am never bored, I am learning all the time and know that what we do makes a difference. Bring on the future challenges!"

Carrie writes:

"This year is my 29th year with Asda! Little dd I know when I joined at 16, that I’d have such a long career and find my dream role.

"I joined in 1992 as a part-time produce colleague at our Milton store in Dundee whilst at school and university, where I studied Engineering. In my summer placements as part of my Engineering degree I found it really difficult to be taken seriously as a young female engineer, and although it was something I had wanted to do for a very long time, I lost my passion for the industry.

"I decided to progress in Asda and was promoted to supervisor. This was one of the most challenging roles I’ve faced – I knew I needed to gain the respect of colleagues who I had worked with a long time to be taken seriously as their supervisor role. I did this through open and honest communication, being there to provide support, and having a laugh along the way. The team thrived and achieved great success.

"Throughout the roles in my career (and there have been many of them!) my biggest challenge has been myself. I have ADHD and a generalised anxiety disorder, and I am my own worst critic - I find most of the obstacles in my way are created by me!

"Every day at work, as well as at home, I need to push myself out of my comfort zone, whether that is meeting new people or going into new stores, or sometimes even just taking the dog for a walk. I have to think it through and prepare myself, take a deep breath and convince myself I can do it. There are times I don’t manage to convince myself, and I’m learning to accept that too. The worst that can happen is I fail, but in failing I learn and in learning I develop my ability to meet the next challenge and every day is certainly a challenge.

"The best advice I can give others is to try not to limit yourself. Often we are our own worst critic and this is not how others may see us. Be kind to yourself!”