Wednesday 8 March is International Women’s Day in 2023 and whilst we want to celebrate, we want to make sure we spotlight the work of some of the incredible women we work with and alongside.
So each day this week, we’ll be sharing the story of a different woman leading businesses and divisions. Today we’re starting with Emma Locke, the UK HR Manager for Perfetti Van Melle, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of confectionary.
Who most inspired your career or mentored you to your level of success?
Gosh! Now that is a question. I can’t really say it’s been one person.
I didn’t come from a particularly affluent background and my family typically didn’t attend university or achieve any form of higher education – but I felt from an early age that it was important. I managed to get my degree, my Masters in Gender Studies and my CIPD qualifications whilst balancing studying with a number of bar and waiting jobs and a rather large loan at one stage!
My HR career was something I fell into but I had some early influences at Thames Water and the NHS who really showed me the value of HR.
I saw a work ethic in my mum which was admirable and I feel I have inherited a lot of that from her. I have lots of talented and bright friends who work in many different industries and my sister inspires me with her amazing creative and practical talent.
What policies or practices does your organisation have in place to allow women to thrive?
Here at Perfetti Van Melle – PVM UK, we work very hard to allow everyone to thrive – whatever their background or characteristics. We do try and ensure, however, that we balance our approach and look through a lens which is as inclusive and diverse as possible and we are very much on a journey as an organisation with D&I being part of our long term strategy, goals and measures.
In the last 2 years we have introduced enhanced family friendly policies and increased the level of leave and pay. We’ve also implementing a new menopause policy, menopause training for our leadership team, inclusion awareness days and dedicated maternity returner support – based on feedback, this has all been well received.
During the recruitment and selection process, we aim to have a gender balanced shortlist, a gender balanced interview panel and all our agencies and partners are briefed to understand what our aim is. We have been looking at our role profiles regarding the use of language and we encourage less experienced team members to experience supporting the hiring process where possible.
In addition, we operate a hybrid working model and a flexible approach to hours to enable everyone to have a better work life balance. I also see our senior leaders modelling a great work ethos and working flexibly.
As HR, I work to monitor our demographics, how we spend our L&D budget and I always look to ensure a gender balanced approach. I have conducted a gender pay review to ensure we are being fair and equitable in our compensation approach and whenever nominating talent or learning opportunities we ensure we are taking a D&I lens to the decisions.
Finally, we have partnered with GroceryAid in the last 2 years to gain wider industry knowledge and learn from what our competitors and contemporaries are doing in the space of well-being, D&I and mental health and that of course includes not only gender but all types of inclusion.
How do you try and pass down support and mentorship to women in your industry or organisation?
I try and lead by example. I am flawed but am continuing to learn and grow whilst being dedicated to developing the capability of the women around me.
I have had some close working relationships with many of my female colleagues and have enjoyed not only mentoring and coaching but being mentored in return! Recently I have been coaching a friend through a difficult patch in her career and we have been able to share our experiences to help navigate the situation she found herself in. It’s been very informal, but I know the impact has been immense in terms of problem solving and confidence building. When I was made redundant two years ago, this friend was my absolute rock and I could never thank her enough for getting me through such a low point.
More recently, I also joined the CIPD mentorship programme as a mentee and work with a lovely woman at Starbucks. This has given me a broader perspective on mentorship and I hope the programme will lead me to in turn guide someone else in the future. I feel it’s only right to give back!
From Perfetti Van Melle’s perspective, we have used GroceryAid’s programme to provide mentors from across the FMCG industry for our team members. We also promote the use of buddies internally and the leadership team do a great job of this.
However informal or formal the mentorship, coaching or support is, I know it helps women gain access to opportunities and cultivates confidence in the workplace which is often still a male-dominated environment. Female leaders help to create more diverse leadership teams as well as opening up discussion on multiple perspectives that improves decision-making and strengthens the organisation to face the challenges of the future.