Embracing equity in the petrol and convenience channel

International Women’s Day (IWD) will be held this Wednesday 8 March with the theme of #EmbraceEquity.

With this in mind, we reached out to some female voices from across the petrol and convenience channel, to hear how they connect this theme with the industry, and what IWD means to them.

IWD is an annual celebration of everyone who identifies as female and pushes for a world with gender equality.

The theme this year of #EmbraceEquity has triggered a real discussion around the difference between ‘equity’ and ‘equality’. Personally, really wrapping my head around the definitions of these two words and how they relate to society, business, and the industry, took a great deal of thought and reflection.

Let’s start with the definitions of each word, as provided by the official International Women’s Day website:

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.

Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the conversation around equality versus equity is critical. The concept of equity, giving every person what they need to be successful, is a far better goal that will achieve a more impactful outcome for women.

In reaching out to women across the industry, it was encouraging to see how far women have come in what has traditionally been a very male dominated industry.

Skye Jackson, General Manager Merchandise, Ampol

Skye Jackson, General Manager Merchandise, Ampol

The thing I appreciate most about IWD is that it represents a point in time to stop and reflect. In doing so, I have been dismayed to read about impacts of a digital gender gap, whereby globally, the exclusion of women is negatively impacting Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in some countries. This highlights just how deep and complex the issue of inequality is. I am proud to work for Ampol, an organisation that is well advanced in its diversity and inclusion journey, which has goals and reports on progress relating to female representation in senior leadership, at Board level and for gender-based pay differential.

I’m also proud to be able to participate regularly in Ampol’s Women Inspiring Fresh Ideas employee networking group, which focuses on empowering our female employees as they navigate their careers. My positive observations within Ampol and the wider convenience industry are clearly not representative of what is happening in Australia, or across the Globe.  As such, it is important to not be complacent. Diversity and inclusion is a changing landscape, with dynamic strategic requirements. There is a need to continue to strive for equity within the workplace and to educate and empower emerging leaders around the benefits of diversity: in strategic thinking, positive culture, and a powerful sense of belonging.

Corinne Barclay, Director, Convenience Measures Australia

Corinne Barclay, Director, Convenience Measures Australia

In my many years within the convenience industry I have witnessed a significant change in the diversity of people working within the channel across both supplier, retailer, and service providers. As a female in this industry, I am proud to have witnessed firsthand how our industry has evolved and embraced equality.

The themes of IWD this year are interesting as they reflect the next step in the evolution process, which is moving from equality to equity. Equality is giving everyone an equal share, but what it doesn’t do is give everyone a fair share.

I am passionate about helping women to find their confidence and their voice so that they can get a fair share in the future. There is still some work to do on this and supporting women and men in our industry to firstly understand this and then to act will be what is needed next.

For me, this IWD is about celebrating where we have got to so far and then thinking about what more we can do to continue to improve.

Felicity Needham, Vice President Sales Away From Home, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

Felicity Needham, Vice President Sales Away From Home, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

The celebration of IWD provides us with an opportunity to celebrate women globally and signifies two things for me; recognition of the progress women have made and a reminder of the work we still need to do for generations to come.

To me, the IWD theme embracing equity resonates strongly, and embracing people’s different perspectives, experiences, and empowering women is one of the important ways we do this. CCEP shares this mentality of truly valuing our differences and is committed to building a diverse workforce with an inclusive culture where everyone feels valued and belongs while providing tools needed for everyone to be successful.

The beverage industry is predominately male-led but over the last decade I have been with CCEP, I’ve seen the industry undergo a significant transition, and it has been rewarding to see an increase in diversity and women moving into key leadership roles. At CCEP, supporting women is a key priority and is included in our This is Forward sustainability strategy. We have a goal for at least 40 per cent of senior management positions to be held by women by 2025. We’re on track to achieve this and have invested in programs to recruit, develop careers, and provide pathways to leadership.

One of the critical focuses for us has been to improve female representation in the supply chain, which women are underrepresented in industry-wide. A cross-functional initiative has been introduced, utilising innovative solutions and technologies, and we’ve seen an increase in females in our workforce across each state.

Seeing more women entering different functions within the industry helps us evolve, and certainly, it’s something we want to celebrate. We must ensure we continue to acknowledge the importance of the contribution of women and the significance of seeing women in different leadership roles for the future of our young girls.

Progress involves recognising the unintended obstacles women face, challenging the status quo, providing pathways to success and looking to the future with a diverse view. With many perspectives and experiences, we will set up the industry for success as we face ever-evolving changes and challenges.

Deborah Cooper, Head of Petrol and Convenience, Frucor Suntory

Deborah Cooper, Head of Petrol and Convenience, Frucor Suntory

This year’s themes mean a lot to me, particularly around creating a gender-equal future for all women. As a mother of three girls and a boy, I want to ensure that my kids grow up in a world where they have the same opportunities as anyone else, regardless of gender. Particularly for my daughters, I would love them to never feel any negative impact on their careers due to their gender.

On a professional level, working in a male-dominated industry, it couldn’t be more important to focus on gender equity. For me, it’s not about the present; it is all about how we set up for the future and how we’re supporting women at the grassroots level to ensure they have the experience and capability to build strong, fruitful careers in the petrol and convenience channel.

I feel extremely lucky with my experiences in the industry and at Frucor Suntory where there’s a clear focus on gender equality. In recent years we’ve reached milestones around a neutral pay gap in Australia and New Zealand, equal paid parental leave and ensuring inclusive hiring.

What I would like to see for the future is working to bring more women into the industry. This could include targeted graduate programs to demonstrate what the FMCG industry can offer to women who are considering entering it. It is also great to see more women in senior leadership roles, it gives us real examples of where we can take our careers.

I couldn’t be more proud that Suntory Food & Beverages has just appointed its first female CEO, Makiko Ono. It demonstrates a clear intent from Suntory to bring diversity into the most senior roles in the business.

Kellie Struth, Head of Category and Marketing Operations, APCO

Kellie Struth, Head of Category and Marketing Operations, APCO

IWD this year means quite a lot to me. Reflecting on how much our work environments have changed is quite phenomenal. When I started full time work back in the 90s I remember being surrounded by some of the most amazing, talented, smart women I have ever worked with. The only thing was that none of these women held executive leadership roles but were clearly steering the ship. As the years went on, I worked in many male executive dominated companies and even recall not that long ago being one of only two females in a very large category team. In 2023, I feel on the work front, quite quickly we have come a long way to ensuring a gender equal future, especially in the convenience channel where we are all surrounded by some pretty amazing women doing some pretty amazing things.

This year’s focus on how innovation is a driver of change and by embracing new technologies and fostering the unique skills and knowledge of women in STEM, we can accelerate our progress towards a general equal future is very true for the convenience channel. Our industry is currently faced with a future of many unknowns. It is more important than ever that we embrace this transformation of our industry and look to new ways of thinking. As we continue to get better at recognising and nurturing the value women bring to our workplace, I would love to think that this year sees us continue to create inclusive workplaces that foster and embrace not just gender equality but human equality.

The reality is outside of the workplace we still live in a world where one woman a week loses her life to family violence and this year, I am very honoured to be part of our APCO Foundation Board that helps support some of these women and their children in our local communities who are enduring situations no one should ever have to. We also partner with other charitable organisations and together we are focused on providing a better future for these women and their families. Sometimes this is through financial support to help with education or could simply be the provision of a laptop. We know education plays an important role and by having access it creates new opportunities, which can inspire and change the trajectory of lives.

With equality projected to still be 300 years away, in 2023 I look forward to being part of the solution to get us there sooner – with a key focus on improving respect and bridging the divide, moving us closer to our shared goal of equality.

Glenys Tristram, National Marketing Manager, NightOwl

Glenys Tristram, National Marketing Manager, NightOwl

When asked for my thoughts on IWD, I will admit to feeling a little uncomfortable. I don’t have an activist personality and I feel I don’t have too much to contribute to the conversation. I reflect that perhaps this is part of the privilege I enjoy as an Australian woman. I believe I’m very lucky to have been born into a culture that openly discusses these issues and continues to make steps forward in improving conditions for women, both here at home, and abroad. And I’m grateful to those women and men who have made it their mission and passion to continue to do so.

We know for certain that improving the equality of women in the workplace has a positive impact on the culture as a whole. Studies have shown that when women have equal opportunities for employment and advancement, it not only benefits individual women but also leads to a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture. And don’t we all want that? Researcher Kimberly A. Yuracko found that increasing the number of women in leadership positions leads to improved collaboration and teamwork, which improves ethical decision-making. This is because women often have different perspectives and experiences, which adds significant value to discussions and decision-making processes. While I am the most senior woman at NightOwl there are equal opportunities to be had here and we do have a number of female franchisees. But there’s always room for more. I would love to see more women in leadership positions in every business and industry, as it will lead to a more vibrant and thriving workplace culture for everyone.

Lisa Schilling-Thomson, National Sales Manager, Tonik

Lisa Schilling-Thomson, National Sales Manager, Tonik

“I am woman, hear me roar” is what I grew up hearing and grew up believing as a young girl, the child of a single mother. I believed I could do whatever and be whatever I dreamt.

Almost 20 years ago, my first job in FMCG was eye-opening, an industry that was clearly male dominated, a boy’s club, misogynistic, men taking care of their own. The best jobs, the promotions, the higher salaries, it was all out in the open for all to see.

Equality was a word that was regularly bandied about by HR managers, senior management, and company executives at staff meetings, conferences and in employee handbooks. But in reality, it wasn’t actually practiced at a corporate level.

Fast forward 20 years, women have rights, women know their rights, women speak out about their rights and women demand their rights, but do we have equality?

Still today highly talented, skilled women continue to have to prove themselves above and beyond their male counterparts. When we hear of a woman securing a high position, take for example, Coles’ new CEO Leah Weckert, we’re almost shocked that a woman was chosen for that position, which historically would’ve been filled by a man.

How could an emotional creature like a woman hold such a senior position like that…?

The simple truth is, women have always been capable decision-makers, life-givers, multi-taskers, taskmasters, educators, discipliners, truth-tellers, creators, risk-takers, managers, and commanders, to name but a few.

The difference is that today we refuse to stand in the shadows of men, we refuse to allow men to put us down, to take credit for our work, to pay us less than them, to treat us as less.

The key lesson women need to understand and learn is what men have always known and practiced. Women need to unequivocally support other women and each other without question or competition, create a ‘women’s club’, back each other up, speak up for each other and stand up for each other.

We are brave. We are resilient. We are.

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