Behind the scenes

Women in business: celebrating the wonder women of Parcelforce

We at Parcelforce Worldwide are huge champions of equality, and are incredibly proud of how diverse our workplace is. Most of you will be aware of the new superhero movie Wonder Woman – well, this release got us thinking about some of our own wonder women. To celebrate the amazing ladies at our workplace and show how they’re driving forward the business, we’ve been chatting to three of our operations managers, finding out their secrets to success, getting their opinions on the main challenges currently facing women in business and hearing their advice for aspiring leaders.

So, in the Parcelforce hot seat we have Hayley Blake from Parcelforce in Chelmsford; Sally Ede from Parcelforce in North West London; and Emma MacDonald from our branch in Inverness. Hayley was the first woman to become an operations manager across the whole company, and after starting at Parcelforce in Bradford in 1998, worked her way up the ranks, trying her hand at customer service, supervising and revenue management before landing her current position.

Sally, meanwhile, started at Parcelforce as a driver in 2009. Her initial three-month contract was extended, and soon she was responsible for four post codes. Her itchy feet and dreams of moving into a management position saw her taking on the role as customer service and processing manager, and from there she became a delivery manager before being promoted to her current job as operations manager.

As for Emma, her journey began in 1996, when she started casual work sorting letters with Royal Mail. She then worked in processing for a couple of years before moving to administration. In 2006, she made the switch from Royal Mail to Parcelforce to become a delivery and collections manager, before being promoted to operations manager in May 2015.

The main challenges currently facing women in business

We asked our ops managers what they felt were the biggest obstacles facing women in business industry today, with Sally claiming that self-confidence is a big one. ‘We are our own biggest enemy!’ she said. ‘Women need to be more confident in their own abilities. Sometimes I am far too analytical and overthink things, and I am definitely my own biggest critic.’ However, she also described 2017 as a good time to be a woman, adding: ‘In my experience, most companies operate excellent equal opportunities policies and in the case of Royal Mail/Parcelforce, I have received excellent support and encouragement throughout my career regardless of my gender.’

According to Hayley, a major challenge is taking time out of your career to have children. She said: ‘While this is not directly an issue, it’s a factor I considered when going for a promotion, a manager’s job or a job with more responsibility. Would I be able to balance work/home life and of course the cost of childcare versus wages?’

Emma agreed striking this balance was a main challenge for her. ‘I overcome this by planning ahead so that everyone knows what they should be doing.  That’s about communication within the workplace and at home.’

This ability to juggle home life with a career that’s equally fast-paced is admirable, and as Sally told us, this is usually ‘pretty tricky – and probably something that my family would say that I need to work on!’ As she’s married with two young children, there isn’t much time for anything else between work and family. She added: ‘Fortunately I love both my family and my job so I guess it’s not so bad!’

Emma and Hayley are, coincidentally, also mums of two. With Emma’s kids needing lifts to different sports activities and clubs, she has to think ahead to make sure everyone’s in the right place at the right time. Hayley told us: ‘As soon as I open my front door I am no longer an ops manager. I am a wife and a mum to 5 and 6-year-old girls. They don’t care what kind of day I’ve had – they want their mum to be a mum!’

Inspiration and the importance of a role model

Having someone to look up to and keep you on track can be helpful during any challenging times or moments of doubt. During her career, Emma said she had had some great models, in particular two female managers – one in Royal Mail and one in Parcelforce. ‘These two individuals inspired me over the years and were always willing to offer support and advice – and they still are,’ she said.

Hayley, meanwhile, has had a couple of sources of inspiration throughout her career, but the person who stood out was her former manager Jean Healey. ‘She was a strong woman and was very focused and determined.’ Her children also helped to motivate her and drove her to become the best she could be. ‘I think it’s important that your children know if they work hard they can achieve what they want. They see me doing that and I want the same for them,’ Hayley said.

For Sally, her dad has been her biggest inspiration after working for him for 10 years. She said: ‘I learned so much across so many aspects of business. He taught me to be resilient and to never give up, even when you can’t see a way out. More importantly he taught me about people, how to develop relationships and look after people to get the best out of them, something that is so important at any level of business.’

How Parcelforce is helping women to achieve their career goals

According to Sally, Parcelforce has presented her with some amazing opportunities to prove her ability and potential. She added: ‘They have supported me every step of the way. I feel a massive amount of affection, pride and loyalty in our brand. Because of this I will always strive to achieve the best results I can for the business.’

Emma agreed that Parcelforce is a great company to work for, and that she’s now in a role that she thoroughly enjoys with a brilliant team behind her. ‘Parcelforce has supported me, trained me and continue to be an excellent employer. Having only been in the role for two years I am happy to continue to learn and ensure the success of the depot I run.’

Hayley, meanwhile, said that working for a big organisation like Parcelforce meant there is endless scope to try roles that suit your lifestyle. ‘It took me a while to find mine but I am happy running the depot at North Essex and have a great team supporting me,’ she added.

The future generation

While women are making strides in business, there is still work to be done in terms of closing the pay gap and getting young girls into careers traditionally viewed as being for men. With this in mind, we wanted to know if our business experts had any advice for young women starting their career. ‘Be the best that you can be and always give 100%,’ said Hayley. ‘Being a woman in the workplace has positives as well as negatives and if you get the balance right, you’ll thrive and achieve all your goals.’

Sally advised: ‘Understand your people, know your numbers and believe in yourself. If you are good at what you do your employer won’t care what gender you are!’ Emma’s top tip, meanwhile, was: ‘Be prepared to work and be open-minded.’

Becoming a Wonder Woman of the business world

Wonder Woman has some pretty awesome powers, but our favourites are her superhuman strength, courage and wisdom, telepathy and knowing every single language. We challenged Hayley, Emma and Sally to pick which power they would most want and why.

‘I would like to know every single language,’ said Emma. ‘It would be great to have that skill and be able to have chat with anyone in the world.’ Hayley went with courage and wisdom – ‘Wisdom would help me make the right decisions both in work and at home; courage would help me try things I didn’t think possible.’

Sally also chose wisdom, with her reason being ‘the power of wisdom is unlimited and would help you in pretty much every situation that you face daily’. Well said!

Stay posted for more sneak peeks at the fantastic team shaping the future of our business.