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November – February 2017

Welcome to your Winter Edition Features | Interviews | Tips | Networking News | Development | Career | Inspiring Role Models | Aspire | Respect

Katy Brown and Inspiring us to

'Be the Change'

Featuring interviews with Colleagues Katy Brown and Gail Lyon and an update on the Women's March and the Be Inspired Campaign PLUS so much more!



An introduction from

Emma Barrett the Chair of the Aspire network

What’s inside: 4 Women March on the World #BeBoldForChange 5 Do you have what it takes to be a council member? Be the change

Hi everyone, Welcome to the latest edition of the Aspire magazine. No matter what your political leanings, I think we can all agree that it’s been a really interesting few months in politics! I think one of the positive things to come out of recent events was the Women’s March held globally on 21 st January. People (women and men) attended these for a variety of reasons, some to protest Donald Trump’s Presidency, but many attended to show solidarity and support for women around the world who are fghting inequality or are worried about their existing rights being eroded. It’s really exciting to see how this has started a global conversation. There are other elections taking place – namely the Member’s Council elections. The nomination window is open until 17 th February. Standing for the Members’ Council is a great opportunity for female members who are passionate about their local communities and co-operative values to get more involved and contribute to shaping the future of one of the world’s largest consumer co-ops. I wanted to say a huge “thank you” to everyone who completed our frst annual survey. We wanted to capture your thoughts so that we can make being a member of Aspire work for you. We’re working through the results now and will be sharing them with you all over the next few months. Remember, you can send us any feedback or comments you have at any time via


Copyright © 2016 The Co-operative Group Ltd, all rights reserved. Unless otherwise stated, all content in this publication is property of The Co-operative Group Ltd. Unauthorised duplication, copying and redistribution (either in full or in part) is strictly prohibited.

6-7 Read how Katy's making an Inspirational Impact 8 Update on Sustainable Development Goals 9 Be Inspired...Women in Retail 10-11 Exclusive interview with Gail Lyon The Importance of Social Media 13 Love is in the air Love Yourself with these top tips 14 Find out about the next Women in Property Event 15 Colleague Profile: Gemma Edmonds

A Note from the editing team Hi guys, we are delighted to bring you this special Winter issue of Aspire Magazine! We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it! Please feedback to us at Copy Editors:

Sharon Pegg & Paula Barclay


Emma Barrett, Michelle Wood, Christine Edge, Fiona LintonForrest & Paula Barclay


Women March on the

By Paula Barclay

d l r o W

#BeBoldForChange In Aspire’s Spring edition the steering group spoke about their favourite moments of 2015. Mine was the full force of women that responded to Donald Trump by live tweeting him their periods after he ‘subtly’ credited a Fox news host’s hostility to “blood coming stands for. The march was out of her wherever”. However, I had no idea of the an incredible day, the scale of solidarity that was to come in response to atmosphere was amazing his presidency just over a year later.

Sign from the London March

In case you missed it, on 21st January 2017 over 5 million people around the world joined together to march and make their voices heard. Protest signs ranged from the humorous to emotional and were raised by people from all walks of life, standing together for unity, solidarity and equality.

Nicole Eamyodsin attended the London march and spoke to Aspire about her experience:

“I am from the United States originally and have been filled with anxiety ever since primary season about what a Donald Trump presidency would look like for me, my friends and my family. It got to a point where I couldn't watch the news or engage with the current political climate in any way - I just shut off completely. When I heard that the Women's March was going global I decided to stop hiding my head in the sand and that I needed to let my voice be heard to stand in solidarity with the women in the United States who are worried about moving backwards in the next four years and also to recognize that in the UK and worldwide there is still so much to be done to ensure equal rights for all. It was my way of standing up for what I believe in and to show that I am against everything that Trump 4

and people of every background, creed, colour, gender and age were standing together - even Nicole proudly holds her though all our reasons for sign at the London March marching might not have been exactly the same it was incredible to see such unity. It made me realise that there is still sanity in this world and has made me engage with reality in a way I hadn't been able to for the past 6 months. I now have a renewed optimism in the future and that I can have a hand in shaping it even if there are some dark days ahead.” This feeling of having the courage to stand up against injustice and inequality is continued in this year’s International Women’s Day theme #BeBoldForChange. As highlighted by last year’s IWD theme it won’t be another 170 years until we reach gender parity – this is too long. Whether to you being bold is challenging colleagues or friends when hearing or seeing unacceptable behaviour, attending a protest march, volunteering for a local charity, learning about unconscious bias or even just having the confidence to voice your opinion in a meeting, any pledge you make to be bold takes us all a step closer to achieving gender parity and a more positive, inclusive world. And I think we all agree this doesn’t stop at gender; let’s continue to be bold against all social injustice. We are stronger when we stand together.

Signs at the Manchester protest


chance to be the change…

It’s a little late for New Year’s resolutions but it’s never too late to try something new.

If you’re interested in the Co-op, in both the businesses and the ethics, then it’s likely you’d make a great candidate for the Co-op Members’ Council. They’re looking for passionate members who can work collaboratively, have sound judgement and strong communication skills.

Sounds like you but don’t think you have the time? You’ll have to attend at least four council meetings a year which usually happen over evenings and weekends. But if you’ve got kids or you’re a carer then there’s an allowance for that.

Still not sure? Think about it… where else can you fnd an opportunity for personal development, that lets you work on your networking skills, while getting paid (there’s an annual fee of £3,000 if you’re elected). As Council member Lynne Hibberd explains,

“if you’re thinking that maybe you could do it, then probably you are the best person to be doing it.” It’s your chance to be the change you want to see at Co-op. Find out more details and apply at:

….................................................. To be eligible to stand for election to the Co-op members’ council you’ll need to have: ● ● ●

been a Co-op member since 5 January 2014 earned at least 1,000 trading points between 3 January 2016 and 31 December 2016 earned at least 500 of these points by spending across any of the wholly-owned businesses in the Co-op Group (Co-op Food, Co-op Electrical, Co-op Insurance, Co-op Funeralcare)

If you want to check if you’re eligible to stand for election email: 5

By Michelle Wood

Katy's Inspirational Impact Katy is part of the Group Transformation team, working alongside the business to support the delivery of Rebuild. She’s not only a valued colleague but is also an inspiration to many, campaigning hard to raise awareness of a very rare group of diseases called Mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS), and fundraising for the MPS Society - the national charity that provides support to families suffering with these conditions, and vital research into treatment. Katy’s eight year old son, Sam, suffers from a type of MPS called Morquio Syndrome which causes progressive physical disability, shortness in stature, and ultimately a shortened life expectancy. Katy has fought hard for Sam and others to receive a pioneering new treatment. Katy, how long have you worked at the Co-op and what is your role?

What advice would you give to others caring for people with Morquio Syndrome? Building a support network is key, not least because the condition is so rare. Only 66 people in England have been diagnosed with Morquio so it is difficult to find someone locally who is going through exactly the same thing as you. The MPS Society has been a great resource for me and my family and they provide support for affected individuals and their families through research, advocacy and awareness of the illness. Through events they organise, and meeting other families at hospital visits, we've built a great network. For Sam too it's important he meets and makes friends with other children of his age struggling with the same challenges. Going through this journey without the MPS Society would be incredibly difficult - I know they are always there at the end of the phone.

Being open and talking about MPS and disability is vital. When I was at school, conditions like Morquio and I started at the Co-op Support Centre in September 2016, disability generally weren’t discussed openly and this led to fear and a lack of understanding. At Sam’s school the so have been here for about 5 months. children are encouraged to ask any questions openly and I am a Transformation Manager in the Group this helps Sam to live a normal school life and enjoy his Transformation team and my role is to work with the education like any other child. Rebuild programmes to develop good practice and consistent ways of working, and support them in anything I do encourage Sam to push himself to solve problems and try and overcome things he thinks he can't do. We transformation related. work hard to give him confidence that anything is In the short time I've been here, I've thoroughly enjoyed possible, that he can be whatever he wants to be. working for the Co-op and find that the buzz and strength of belief in what we're doing gives me a lot of energy. I What motivates you to overcome the challenges you feel well supported in my role and my daily face? train ride across the Pennines gives me chance to plan Fundamentally, I need to be able to look myself in the and refect at the start and end of each day, which in a mirror and know I’ve done the very best I can for Sam, funny way is a luxury for a busy working mum! and where I can, for others with disability too. 6

The biggest challenge we've faced to date is our fight to get the treatment Sam had been receiving as part of a clinical trial, funded by the NHS. In December 2015 we were finally successful, after a long public campaign with other families and the MPS Society, which involved protesting outside Westminster, meeting the (then) Prime Minister, David Cameron, TV appearances and even making a film and releasing a song on iTunes to raise awareness of the heart breaking situation that Sam and others were in. The only way I could get my head around everything we faced was to push forward and exhaust every avenue to get the best possible outcome for Sam. I could not and still cannot envisage a world where Sam is denied a treatment that is significantly improving his quality of life. This kept me going, and still does because the treatment he is receiving right now is still not guaranteed forever. The treatment for MPS is expensive and at times it looked like we would lose the battle. It was frustrating, and felt like a value was being placed on his life - something I was not willing to accept. We collectively fought to get Sam and other Morquio sufferers the treatment they deserved. I continue to spend time campaigning to increase awareness of MPS diseases and disability in general. We’re hosting a Charity Ball in April to fundraise for the MPS Society.

Can you tell us about your future goals? I am energised in my new journey at the Co-op and feel proud of what we are all working hard to achieve. Working for the Co-op gives me confidence that I can really make a difference. I'm excited about what the future holds.

What could Aspire do to help you in your Campaign to raise awareness of MPS? It would be brilliant to open the debate on the role we can take to make life easier for colleagues and customers with disabilities. To create the space to push for opportunities, whilst there are a million other priorities.

As Members of Aspire, how can we support each other in our careers? Keep talking and build good relationships. It is important that we work together and talk about the challenges we all face balancing work and family commitments, building confidence, supporting each other and sharing tools and tips.

Do you have any Role Models?

Authenticity is very important to me - knowing what somebody stands for and seeing that refected in everything they do, every day. The Chief Executive of the MPS Society - Christine Lavery MBE is someone I admire very much. She established the MPS Society in 1982 after her son Simon passed away following an MPS diagnosis, at a time when there was very little support out there for families with MPS conditions. She has been Chief Executive since 1993, and since then the society has developed into the leading provider of information and support for MPS and related diseases. As Mahatma Gandhi said "Be the change you wish to see in the world". Christine epitomises that for me. Life is not about waiting for someone else to take charge, problems are ours to solve. 7

Tips for success or for anyone going through a difficult time • Keep believing - believe and you are half way there • You can change a situation, even in some small way, no matter how challenging it seems • No matter what life throws at you, there is always someone else going through something different, and often something even more challenging. This has helped me keep things in perspective throughout the journey. • Not everyone is going to agree with you, others may think differently about the problem you face. This is diffcult, particularly when it relates to the life of your child. It is exhausting and impossible to try and convince everyone. The key is to not dwell on it, accept and understand their perspective, but then quickly move on. • To quote the wisdom of Christopher Robin - "You're braver than you think, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think".

In our Autumn 2016 edition of the Aspire Magazine, we featured the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (also referred to as Global Goals), which are goals aimed at ending poverty, halting climate change and tackling inequalities globally. It is recognised that women and girls are disproportionally affected by these issues and are key to building resilient communities to withstand and challenge them. We’re so proud that the Co-op has stood up, along with 80 other leading businesses in the UK, to call on the Government to acknowledge the importance of these goals and the UK’s role in delivering them. The open letter was published in The Times, addressed to the Prime Minister, and set out the importance of these goals, both for the UK and globally. Businesses can be key agents for positive change. They provide the goods and services we all rely on. The misuse of natural resources can be devastating for nature and for people, sustainable businesses are ones which are socially responsible and protect natural capital in the long term, which yields benefits such as securing jobs and creating stability for years to come. A report by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission shows how pursuing sustainable and inclusive markets could create $12 trillion (10% of global GDP) and up to 380 million jobs by 2030. The open letter called on the Government to develop a plan recognising that a number of different strategies will help bring about a more sustainable UK. The Co-op has a proud legacy of championing important issues at home and abroad. Supporting this initiative delivers on our purpose of being ‘a better way of doing business for you and your communities’, including those communities we do business with around the world. To learn more, visit the global goals 8

By Emma Barrett

Be Inspired – Women in Retail In 2016, Retail Week kicked off its #BeInspired campaign. Aimed at women in retail, this campaign focussed on creating awareness of the lack of gender diversity in the higher role bands in the retail industry and providing practical advice for overcoming this. #BeInspired has encouraged senior leaders, both male and female, to get involved as ambassadors, and to share their experience and advice. In addition, it has created spaces, such as mentoring breakfasts and conferences, supporting those women in retail thinking about the next steps of their career. It has been so successful, that Retail Week has decided this is a long-term commitment, rather than a campaign. Richard Pennycook was announced as a male ambassador who said:

Some of the points I found really useful were: ●

“The Be Inspired programme is really important to Retail. Retail has always been good at bringing through people from the shop foor to the top-foor, but we haven’t done it in a diverse enough way. Whilst there are some really inspiring women right at the top of Retail, but there aren’t enough and that’s why the Co-op is delighted to be supporting this programme”

I attended one of the Mentoring Breakfasts last year. The ‘Mentors’ were Jacqueline Gold, CEO of Ann Summers; Suzanne Harlow, Group Trading Director of Debenhams; Catriona Marshall, CEO of Hobbeycraft and Annabel Thorburn, Director of Retail Sevices at eCommera. They formed a panel, Chaired by Retail Week’s Charlotte Hardie, taking it in turns to talk about their careers and advice they wished they’d heard (or listened to!) earlier. The women’s stories were really interesting and really inspiring, but also gave really practical advice that attendees could use.

Understand your business – don’t just know your specifc area, but understand what makes your company money, what loses money, what are your business rates, who are your customers etc. Work very hard. You will be noticed if you’re eager, interested and committed. Be open-minded to change. Retail moves very quickly and you need to be able to adapt. Follow your plan, even if it means some “courageous conversations” – you won’t fulfl your potential as a leader if you don’t ever feel uncomfortable. The need for courage never stops no matter how high up the ladder you go! If you’re a manager, recognise that there is a difference in how men and women progress, sometimes it helps to give women a ‘nudge’ by giving them projects that challenge them but where they know they have your support. Take opportunities to network – you never know when you’ll meet someone who might be able to change your life.

Richard Pennycook's thoughts on the Be Inspired Campaign














Gail Lyon


on her role career and why social media is so important for future business successes

Gail Lyon is one of the leading ladies at the Co-op, helping to move a traditional organisation into the 21st century via social media. I spoke to Gail about her career so far...

By Christine Edge 10

Its power, it’s speed, the ability to get real time feedback and act quickly. It has evolved from early beginning, and continues to change and shape the way we do business. The amount of information we exchange continues to increase and future priorities should be on connecting rather than the pushing information out. Organisations need to realise the ‘no comment’ culture is a thing of the past, since conversations will carry on without them, so it’s better to embrace the change and make it work for you. In the Co-op it has massive potential to support Rebuild through the ability to engage with members and discuss what’s right for our future.  This channel could play a significant part in how we communicate with members.

What would you say to those that are reluctant to try social media? Just give it a go. Be yourself and connect with like minded people.   You never know where it could lead!

What’s your biggest social media success? I had a tweet that went global and was retweeted by Jennifer Saunders. People from New Zealand, Japan and Australia saw it: and it was even covered by North West tonight and   CBS in America. And the story …….I tweeted a letter my autistic son got from school congratulating him on his SATs test but noting it was only measuring one small part of him. I was so proud that they recognised that tests are not everything.  

Social media is a relatively new career option, how did you get into it? I grew up always wanting to be a teacher, but was put off when I was at University by my boyfriend’s (now husband) parents who were both teachers and shared their frustrations of the work and changes in the profession. I did a history and sociology degree and didn’t really know what career I wanted to do. I started working in a BT call centre, but I was very shy and didn’t like

talking to customers. I worked hard to get off the phones as soon as possible, and I progressed to


How would you describe the power of social media?

telemarketing which I really enjoyed.   I moved to Siemens in a new telemarketing role and worked closely with Marketing professionals.  I really enjoyed the marketing aspects and took some qualifications while I was on maternity leave with my first child. My role developed over 12 years and I lead product management and propositions often impacting globally. In 2008, when I was on mat leave with my third child I saw the potential of social media and pitched to create a new role of me to develop their Social Media Strategy, and I’ve not looked back since. I came to the Co-op in 2012, I was very proud to be offered the role in retail with a background in only business to business sales. Over the last 4 years  I’ve seen the role increase in importance.  A defining moment was through the financial crisis, when our Executive team saw the power of social media above traditionally engagement with journalists.  Robert Peston reported some inaccuracies about the Co-op, we spotted them early and got him to correct before it caused major issues.

You have an endorsement in the form of a retweet from a celebrity, is there any celebrity or person that specifically inspires you? No one person or thing, it’s been different people in different ways, but often women on the next stage of the career ladder that I strive to emulate. I also have a drive to support my family. I have a husband with a disability, and 3 children, one diagnosed with autism.  They need me and I’m driven to do the best I can for each of them.

What would you tell your younger self? It will be okay, things will work out. Just go with your gut and be who you are.


follow Gail on twitter


Love yourself It’s February, the month when love is firmly on the agenda. We at Aspire couldn’t help but notice that, in all the talk of showing love for others, one important person gets left out…


Here are our top tips for showing yourself a bit of love. Unlike that box of chocolates, these will last all year…

♥ Don’t compare yourself to others. “Comparison is the death of joy” - Mark Twain ♥ Say “no” when you need to

♥ "Love yourself fi rst, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world. " – Lucille Ball

♥ Practice gratitude ♥ Keep a note of all the positive feedback and comments you receive to look back on when you doubt yourself

Talk to yourself as though you’re your own best friend. You would never tell a friend she was rubbish at her job or needed to lose weight, so why say it to yourself? “Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others” – Christopher Germer (mindfulness practitioner)

♥ Ask for help if you need it ♥ Try making time for yourself, even if it’s just 10 minutes of refl ection on the day before you go to sleep

♥ Stop worrying about other people’s opinions. "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind" – Dr. Seuss

♥ Do something you love, like pursue a hobby you’ve always wanted to do ♥ Treat yourself. Buy yourself the box of chocolates and enjoy them! ♥ Surround yourself with people who treat you with kindness and respect. Here at Aspire, we’re all about a good network. Why not join in our monthly meet ups?



Colleague Profile:

Gemma Edmonds

You are currently an Area Manager for Central Food covering Luton, Stevenage & Dunstable, what are the best bits about your job? Meeting my team and helping them grow.

Have you always worked for Co-op? I started in retail on the Deli counter at Somerfield and I worked my way up through the ranks until I came across to Coop about 3 ½ years ago as a Store Manager. Since then I have been promoted to an Area Manager.

For anyone thinking of becoming an Area manager what kind of skills do you need? Organised, Strong people skills, able to see the bigger picture and a passion to succeed.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career? When I first came into my role as an Area Manager it was to have the confidence to believe in myself and know that I was making the right decision to push the business forward, as at the time some of my colleagues had been in the business for many years.

In your role do you often find yourself in male dominated environments, and if so, how do you find this?

...... ..... ...... ..... ...... ..... ...... ..... ...

By chance I happened to meet Gemma at a Co-op event that she’d popped to whilst in Manchester. We got chatting and I realised I’d met a great role model for ‘being co-op’ and a champion of supporting female talent. I asked Gemma a few questions to see what it is like being an Area Manager…


At first there was very few female Area Managers, but this has changed massively over the last 2 years. This has inspired me to want to support other female leaders into their next role. I have been privileged to have been part of the Pearls group in the last year, this has given me more confidence and the tools to succeed in my role.

Over your career have you had any role models? Within the business I would have to say Matthew (Speight) and Chris (Whitfield) have been huge inspirations in the way they identify talent and nurture colleagues and not afraid to take a risk. And then my previous line manager, Rob (Baines) who was a fantastic coach and helped me style my leadership skills. Outside of work I would it has to be Michelle Obama, a strong powerful woman who inspires others to succeed.

Outside of work, do you have any passions or hobbies? Shopping! In my spare time I love to shop. I am really a girlie girl, love to get my hair done and meet up with girls.

Is there any advice you would like to pass on to others trying to progress in the retail sector or in general?


Never be afraid to put yourself forward, believe in yourself always and work hard!

We'd love to hear from you! • If you are a Co-op Group colleague and would like to become a member of Aspire please email with your name, job title and role band. You will then receive all communications about upcoming Aspire events and new editions of our magazine! • We understand that our colleagues are not all based in Manchester, so wherever you are, whether in Store, a funeral home, one of our support centres or even out in the field we would like to hear from you. • Also, if you would like to organise an Aspire event near you please get in touch for support. • Join the conversation by following us on Twitter: @aspire_co_op

February 2017 magazine final  

Featuring interviews with Colleagues Katy Brown and Gail Lyon and an update on the Women's March and the Be Inspired Campaign + so much mo...

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