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 talking to Debbie Olive, the President EMEA at CoopeerVision. CooperVision is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of soft contact lenses.
Who most inspired your career or mentored you to your level of success?
On a personal level it has to be my grandmother. She was an ambulance driver during the war, then widowed early, bringing up two small children alone whilst working full time to support them. She taught me a huge amount about work ethic, resilience and always having a smile on her face whatever was happening. I still daily live by her advice of, “there’s always a solution, you just haven’t found it yet”.
On a work level, I have had a number of managers – some real role models, all with great attributes and some flaws, but that is being human. I have tried to learn from each and every one of them about what has worked for them and apply it. I was always inspired when growing up by Anita Roddick – her fearlessness, ethics, compassion and ability to manage a breakthrough business with a strong philosophy of relationships being central to the business.
What policies or practices does your organisation have in place to allow women to thrive?
We take inclusion and diversity seriously at CooperVision and that’s part of what makes it a great place to work. It starts with the leadership teams – we are all trained on ‘leading with inclusion’ to set a positive tone where we hope everyone can be themselves and feel a sense of belonging. We’re then supported by our Women’s Inclusion Network (WIN) ERG who do an amazing job of enforcing these messages.
We regularly invite speakers who talk about their own challenges and journey, and support on areas where women tell us they feel held back, such as speaking up with confidence or managing difficult conversations. We have also recently focused on supporting women during the menopause. Our WIN network has attracted a growing number of male colleagues who are also interested in championing women’s success in business.
How do you try and pass down support and mentorship to women in your industry or organisation?
I have been privileged enough to mentor a significant number of women from different continents and it’s fair to say they add as much value to me as I hope I have been able to provide to them. I try to support through coaching and also directing them to specific books and online resources that can help better shape their own thinking, which appears to be very effective. More broadly, I try to be a ‘cheerleader’ for our developing female talent, as that support has been so important through my own career.