Interview with Heidi Woodhouse: MD in Retail

Heidi Woodhouse is a Managing Director. Since learning to code aged just 10, Heidi has always had a passion for technology.

Heidi showed the initiative to apply this knowledge in a very successful way throughout her career. Working in a leadership role, we are thrilled to feature her. Her work ethic and drive are instrumental to her success, and something that we can all learn from.


What is your current role?


Being a Managing Director gives me the ability to actively help bring about change in my organisation, who are very focused on diversity and inclusion. We have support from the board down – which is incredibly important as cultural changes have to start from the top. Focusing on diversity delivers a business that makes better decisions and has better sustainability. It benefits the organisation in every way – from customer advocacy to colleague engagement and ultimately, resulting in improved profitability.


What barriers have you faced in your career?

I don’t feel I have encountered any particular barriers, but certainly having children changed my outlook, both in regards to taking maternity leave (will I be left behind? will my role still be there for me? how will I cope?). Because at the time there were so few women in my position there was a lack of support from others who had been through the same situation. Since then, I have been supported to modify my working arrangements to ensure I am around for events that are important. I want to be a parent who is present, not one who is always at work. My organisation has allowed me to work flexibly which has benefitted my work-life balance.


How would you recommend breaking down barriers in the workplace?

For me, it’s not just about diversity (which can seem like a tick box exercise) but about inclusion. Sometimes environments are simply not inclusive enough to allow women to have a voice even if they are present. Companies need a culture that values differences rather than squashes them.


Diversity and inclusion still need to be put more firmly on the agenda for many organisations. I think the expectation of the younger generations is that diversity and inclusion should be the norm, but this is not always the reality. Additionally, strong women are still more often than not labelled as difficult or aggressive when they are not, they have to be vocal to compete in a man’s world.


As a Managing Director, how do you ensure that you are an inspiring leader?

I try and support others within their roles, in particular, other women. I really encourage different thinking and different ideas. I try to be creative and listen to everyone before coming to my decisions.


I am very proud to be seen as a role model both in and out of the workplace, particularly for my children. Both my son and my daughters are very aware that women have the ability to reach for the stars and have a very positive outlook on diversity.


What does a typical day of an MD look like?

I spend my morning reviewing the business, and understanding customer behaviour to maximise sales, profits and customer advocacy. Very often I will attend a meeting with suppliers to see the latest product ranges and visit the airports to see the stores. I will also have one to ones or team meetings. I look at customer data, marketing plans, strategy, stock, commercials, financials, it’s very varied and that’s why I love it!


What has been your biggest setback?

Sometimes it’s hard as a woman to fit in with a male-dominated environment – not just within an organisation but also outside of it. I found it’s best to be vocal about how you feel, and not to suffer in silence.


What three tips would you give to females starting their careers?

Be part of the change – Actively participate, form a network, ask your organisation how you can help.

Be confident – Organisations need diversity, most understand the value and those that don’t soon will or they risk being left behind.

Always believe you can do it – Women can suffer from a lack of confidence, particularly when it comes to promotions. You have to have the belief in yourself – if you don’t have confidence in your own abilities you can’t expect anyone else to either.


If you loved reading about Heidi and her successful career as a female Managing Director, you will enjoy reading about Michelle Carson-Williams, the CEO of Holmes Noble.

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