In today’s DIVE In blog, Sharon Peters, Head of Technology at Marks and Spencer (M&S), shares her thoughts on diversity and inclusion, personal anecdotes, and advice to reach your goals in our “Fearless Females of Supply Chain” Blue Yonder Live. A Blue Yonder customer, Sharon has over 20 years of experience in the retail industry. She offers insight into the obstacles she has faced and how confidence and believing in oneself is the most vital ingredient for success. Her knowledge and expertise, like so many of our other customers, provide inspiration that allows us to build a more equitable and diverse world.

Can you share why we should be diverse and inclusive?

In my view, building an inclusive environment enables us to build diverse teams, and having that inclusive environment is an outcome of many factors. We are all unique individuals, so it is really important that we understand each other. At M&S, we talk to our colleagues across the business to understand each other’s different perspectives, and sometimes we need to adjust accordingly. For instance, we seek inclusivity in meetings by ensuring that people can hear okay and asking if they would like captions. Also, we are making sure that our recruitment processes take neurodiversity into consideration to get the best possible candidates.

I think diversity is such a large and complex area, but we recognize the business case in diversity and understand that diversity of thought fosters greater innovation and solutions. We aim to achieve better outcomes for our business by focusing on diversity and inclusion, ensuring that they are coupled tightly together.

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you, both personally and professionally?

Being a female in a tech world, there are often these situations where you are the only female in the room. It is all about how you equip yourself to ensure that you are considered an equal, even though it is only yourself who feels unequal. However, I still hear stories today, so I think it is important that we support each other to drive greater equality. From a personal point of view, I want to make sure my son and daughter know that equality is welcomed and expected, but to do that, I have got to call out when it is not. But, this must be done positively and constructively. 

At M&S, we are looking at how we can make the company even more equal and get everyone working towards the same goal, which requires us to try various tools and techniques. We have an employee in our Product and Technology Team who is neurodiverse, and I think she is just incredible. We embrace all the different perspectives and views we all bring to the team. I have learned that it is important to talk about the topic openly and recognize that there are no stupid questions. 

What advice would you like to share with people out there that might help them reach their goals and become boundary-pushers themselves, choosing to challenge the status quo? 

For me, it is about building confidence. I mentor quite a few different women, and it is always about “I want to do a really good job, I want to make sure I can do the job before I start, I want to do my best, I want to be happy, I don’t want to compromise my home life.” Well, you can do it. Some of these things are rooted within our mindset and actually starts from a very young age. I think it is about building confidence, and for that, I am using my three P’s: be proud, positive, and passionate. It is a simple framework, and you can just keep checking in on yourself with them.

  • Be proud of what you have achieved and remember to look back at even the small things you did. Build those stories by yourself and stand by them.
  • Be positive and remember that every knockback makes you stronger. Also, being positive generates positivity among people around you, making people want to work with you.
  • Lastly, be passionate. Find your passion and go for it. It generates excitement as well.

Also, get your own tribe, consisting of several people you can be honest with. We all need those key people you can go to and get that boost. We are all human, and sometimes you just need to be able to talk about what is going well or if you have had a bad day. Talking it through really helps, and it boosts you back up.

Looking back at your career, is there anything you would have done differently in order to accelerate acceptance and inclusion? 

I would channel my inner superpower. I talked to my daughter about always trying to do your best, believe in yourself, and get in touch with that superpower. Don’t say you can’t, but rise above it, try and look for them and the positive statements like I can, and I will. The expectation is to do your best and to keep learning. So yes, the inner strength and the inner power are definitely something I would talk about if I could speak to my younger self. So, channel your inner superhero and your inner superpowers from an early age. You are never too young to start, and you are never too old, so channel those inner superpowers from today on!

Watch Blue Yonder’s recent LinkedIn Live session with Sharon Peters.