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Confidence the key ingredient on food industry career ladder

13 July 2015

The National Skills Academy for Food & Drink has urged women working in the sector to be more confident about their ability to climb the career ladder.

Speaking on National Women in Engineering Day, Academy CEO Justine Fosh said that with forecast demand for 170,000 new staff to replace retiring workers in the period to 2022, food and drink now offered women more opportunity for career progression than ever before.

“More than 45,000 of those vacancies will be in technical, professional and managerial roles – with many paving the way for talented women to move up the ranks,” said Fosh.

“The best person for the job is always the best person for the job – and whether you are considering your first step into the industry or applying for promotion, if you believe that’s you, there’s never been a better time to put your hat in the ring.”

Currently, only a third of sector staff are female compared to an all-industries average of 46 per cent. Women are particularly under-represented in senior roles.

Earlier this year, the Academy secured funding for the industry to offset the cost of progression and leadership training to over 750 women working in a variety of operational, technical and managerial roles in a bid to address the gender balance and contribute to the sector’s talent pipeline.

“The courses were oversubscribed so it’s clear businesses are ready to open doors for women with ambition,” said Fosh. “It’s not about being pushy but it is about knowing and growing your value and seeking out opportunities to shine.”

Neil Gillies from Parity Professionals, one of the National Skills Academy’s Specialist providers of Leadership & Management development solutions, backed Fosh’s comments and said women were already playing a vital role in the sector’s success.

“Two women from the food industry, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Mondelez International CEO Irene Rosenfield, were named in Forbes Magazine’s list of the Top 20 most powerful women in the world this year – which shows just how far you can go in this sector,” said Gillies.

Parity Professionals have delivered innovative performance development programmes for 300 mid to senior level female managers across 100 sector businesses over the past 24 months.

The combination of a challenging “self-discovery” curriculum, a safe and supportive learning environment and a tailored one-to-one coaching programme has delivered truly transformational results for the woman that have been part of the development journey.

The development company’s Elevating Women in Management programme had an immediate impact on the circumstances of 32 years-old Nikki White, a Business Accountant with Icelandic Group’s frozen fish division in Grimsby.

“I used a course review meeting with my manager to ask for a pay increase – which got,” said a delighted Nikki.

“I also talked about where I want to get to in the company and how helping me get there would also help the business. What I’d realised was that if you don’t ask you don’t get – but you have to have good reasons and you have to be confident in your case. It’s all about having self-confidence.”

My aim now is to become a Financial Director at some time in the future but I know I need more experience so I’m looking for more project work an exposure to other financial departments such as commercial and procurement.” 


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