Blackjack_IWD 2019

Spotlight on Blackjack’s Women in Travel Retail for International Women’s Day 2019

As the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day states: “Balance drives a better working world. Let’s all help create a #BalanceforBetter”. But international travel retail staffing and experiential specialists Blackjack Promotions is tipping the scales the other way with more than two thirds (66.67%) of its full time workforce made up of women. Furthermore, eight out of 11 (72.73%) members of the senior management team are female.

Travel Retail has always been a great industry for women; one in which women are treated equally and fairly. So in celebration of International Women’s Day 2019, we put the spotlight on some key members of the female senior leadership team at Blackjack Promotions to find out how they feel women are represented in Travel Retail and ask their advice for young women who want to start out and succeed in this industry.

Meet the female driving forces behind Team Blackjack:

Fiona New headshot 2018 (3)Name: Fiona Rayner

Job Title: Head of Experiential and International Operations

How long have you worked in the travel retail industry? 6 years — the last three with Blackjack

What’s the best part about your job?

There are two parts for me — firstly, Travel Retail is a very fast-paced and fast-moving environment. Whilst there are a number of challenges going on in the wider retail sphere, in Travel Retail things are only getting more exciting so it’s great to be in an industry that’s moving forwards all the time; passenger numbers are growing, airports are developing and we’re part of that journey, part of something that’s got such great momentum. The other part of my particular role is that I can make it whatever I want it to be. There are no bounds to what my role is – it’s all about seeking opportunities, coming up with ideas and being creative.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

This is an important one but I’m probably not the best advocate for it because I struggle to get a work-life balance. But for me it’s always thinking about trying to split things into personal and professional, which is not as easy as it sounds but you have to try and put things in two brackets. I live by the phrase “you only live once and you’ve got to live it the best you can”. The phrase my mum always mentions, which always stick with me, is: “You’ve got to work to live, not live to work”. That’s what I try to think about, because that’s what it all comes down to. I just try to be as productive as possible with my time and keep reminding myself that you can only do so much. That’s how I try to achieve a work-life balance.

Do you feel that women are well represented in this industry?

I think it’s definitely getting better. Some of my colleagues who have been in the industry a lot longer might have a different view having seen things change over the years, but during my time in the industry, my personal experience has been very positive. I still think in senior levels — looking at brands and airports and the industry as a wider whole — there’s probably still a way to go. But then you have groups like Women in Travel Retail and inspirational people like Sarah Branquinho from Dufry and Amanda Felix from DFNI, who are very senior figures in Travel Retail, creating networks for women. They are people who have worked in the industry and would have seen a lot of change but for people like myself and my colleagues, they are role models – trying to create platforms for networking. From my perspective, it’s been very positive but there’s probably still a way to go at a very senior level but that’s not to say that there aren’t some really great platforms out there.

What advice would you give to young women who want to get into this industry?

Set yourself goals and be clear in what you want to achieve. I don’t think you can roadmap in this industry because it changes so quickly and new opportunities crop up all the time. So I don’t think you can be too specific but you should have personal goals around where you want to travel to or what you want to get involved in. There is so much happening in this industry – whether it’s TFWA or MEADFA, there’s so many things going on that I think you have to choose what you want to be involved in and put yourself out there. And I also think with the power of things like LinkedIn and networking, you can make it happen. You can meet people and get connected quite easily. My advice would be: get involved, put yourself out there, set yourself personal goals, take opportunities and be organised.

Would you say that, compared to other jobs/industries you have worked in, TR has a better representation of women?

Going back to my life in traditional/high-street retail, that’s even more female dominated. If anything, it makes it more challenging as a women, naturally when you’re working in a very young sort of atmosphere. What was quite refreshing for me is that when you start working with brands or airports — yes, a lot of senior executives in airports tend to be male — but if anything that stretches you and makes you want to achieve more. I prefer this industry to where I was before. For me personally, there’s more for me to attain to, and I want to make more of an impact because the balance needs to be addressed rather than going back to traditional high street where it is more female dominated. For me this feels like more of a natural fit.

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image001Name: Leanne Nutter

Job Title: Head of Client Services

How long have you worked in the travel retail industry? 18 years, all with Blackjack. My very first role was as promotions consultant in Heathrow Terminal 4.

What’s the best part about your job?

I’ve had a variety of roles within Blackjack over the years. Predominantly we are a staffing solutions agency, so a large part of my role has always been working with people, which I love. People often ask me why I have worked with the company for so long. In the last 18 years we have changed so much, we have grown from a relatively small agency to the largest provider of staffing in Travel Retail throughout the UK and Ireland, it has been a fantastic journey and being part of a company which is forward thinking and innovative and allows you to give ideas and run with them is rewarding.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

I think we could probably all be a little better at finding work-life balance. Since returning to work recently from having my second child I think I naturally manage myself better. It is so important to take time out, re-charge and enjoy life. Having an employer who also believes in work life balance definitely helps, that along with supportive colleagues and family.

Do you feel that women are well represented in this industry?

I do, although with all industries I think more can be done.

What advice would you give to young women who want to get into this industry?

This is an industry bursting with opportunity, full of companies who have a variety of different values and cultures. Have confidence, be yourself and you will find your place.

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Alicia BrownName: Alicia Brown

Job Title: Head of Operations

How long have you worked in the travel retail industry? 19 years

What’s the best part about your job?

The opportunities — it’s ever evolving, it’s people focused. You will never find an environment that’s as diverse both in its people and its opportunity for training and experience. I am a firm believer that the Airport environment gives you a great platform for personal growth. People who work in our industry learn skills that are so transferrable in their lives in the future. Every element of the airport provides a service to the passenger experience. Our team are trained in customer service, product knowledge, destination targeting, cultural awareness, disability awareness, commerciality along with the practicalities of keeping our customers/passengers safe.

I am encouraged by our ability to recruit such diversity – men, women and culturally I am passionate about equality in all its guises. Airports create a fairly level playing field and it’s about making the most of the opportunities, showing passion along with an ability to adapt and change in such a dynamic environment. The opportunity Airports give the people that work within them is second to none.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

With difficulty! I do feel that this is a challenge due to my role and place of work along with just being a sign of the times. We operate in a 24/7 environment and are a working generation who find it difficult to switch off or be out of reach.

Whilst there is a lot of opportunity and flexibility working in Travel Retail, my roles have always been fairly labour intensive in terms of working hours. To support my career I have a role reversal situation in that my husband is the primary carer of our children. For me at work, this support function is invaluable, without it I would not have been able to be as successful.

I am often asked how I feel about being a working parent which in itself is a question more often asked of mums than dads. I come from a family where both my parents worked and both my parents were great role models. Yet I am not immune to “mother’s guilt” like many others I have missed parents evening or school plays but not all. You have to try and find a balance that works for you. I compromise as a parent, my children are not compromised, that’s what you need to be able find the balance on and identify as the difference.

Equality works both ways, where compromises are made to support working parents this should be mutually accessible and we have to recognise we all make our own choices and compromises as a result. For us as a family the compromises have paid off, our kids are happy, well loved, well rounded, and sociable and we count ourselves lucky.

Do you feel that women are well represented in this industry?

Generally, yes and Blackjack is a good case in point. However I still think in the most senior roles you will still see a larger proportion of men. I do believe that it is moving in the right direction.

My first opportunity to work in Travel Retail was a decision made by one female and one male manager. At that point, in that management team, the ratio was probably 20% women to 80% men. Today there is a far more proportionate split of men and women especially in middle management.

I want to achieve success on my own merits because I am the best person for the job. However along with hard work, it is about relationship building, as women get more exposure and longevity in senior roles I believe those relationships will stand us in good stead in the future. It might not necessarily impact me directly but how this influences the women that come after me, I think it will help.

What advice would you give to young women who want to get into this industry?

What’s interesting is I personally would not have considered this question to be specific to a woman nor would my initial advice be different to a man or a woman. You have to work hard, lead by example, be prepared for the pace and hours of an Airport environment and enjoy it. I thrive on a challenge and a solution, I learn every day in my role and that is a positive. We have to look for the good and do our best to enjoy the great days as there is always another challenge around the corner.

I suppose if I were to make the advice specific to a woman it would be to have the confidence to be yourself, be brave and take educated risks. It’s a cliché that successful women are hard-nosed or cut throat in order to be successful, I think that’s quite sad and an outdated perception. Firstly you need to treat yourself as an equal, I shouldn’t have to act differently to the person I am to be able to do that.

We should enjoy working with people and developing people. Women make great coaches, we should be generous in our development of others. I like to surround myself with people who don’t do the same thing as me, that provide healthy challenge and add value. You can’t do everything so you have to surround yourself with good people, men or women. It may be naïve but I am hopeful that this in itself supports equality and balance. I would like to be able to provide a positive experience of a female manager both to my team and my employer.

Would you say that, compared to other jobs/industries you have worked in, TR has a better representation of women?

Having been in a management position for quite some time in Travel Retail, I feel TR has a good representation of successful and well respected woman. I have not felt significantly hindered as a woman. There are a lot of women who make an impact in TR and the aviation industry. It’s hard for me to comment as most of my working life has been in TR. If I look within my social circle there is a good, healthy balance of successful men and women. I would add though that currently the most successful remain men, maybe that will be the representation my daughters help shift!

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Nikki FisherName: Nikki Fisher

Job Title: Head of Staffing

How long have you worked in the travel retail industry? 17 years

What’s the best part about your job?

The diverse nature of what is required when working with people. No two days are ever the same. We all work incredibly hard to ensure our staff connect with company culture and there are several elements to joining all of the dots. It’s important to maintain the Blackjack brand ethos; this is the reason why our clients choose to work with us. Our people are key, and setting them up for success is fundamental. Ultimately, well prepared and engaged staff deliver a better service for our clients, whether this means going the extra mile when providing a service to a passenger or being consistently reliable in their attendance. Of course, the business strives to be every client’s first choice and ensuring we fulfil every shift opportunity with the right staff is key to commercial success.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

My department works very closely with hundreds of staff every day, all of whom we have relationships with and responsibilities to. Client needs can change at short notice, and support with quick turnaround projects happen frequently. We work in, what is close to, a 24/7 environment so it’s very easy to be working all of the time. Set yourself work and life boundaries and then stick to them!

Do you feel that women are well represented in this industry?

I would say, yes; certainly within Blackjack. And across other businesses in TR, women are well represented, at all levels. There are great opportunities to drive the development of women in business, with higher ratios of women in senior roles.

What advice would you give to young women who want to get into this industry?

Working with Luxury Brands will not doubt be an appealing proposition for anyone looking for a career in retail. There are, unsurprisingly, high expectations, no matter what role you undertake. However, commitment, professionalism and hard work are easily recognised due to the close working relationships the industry relies on. There is a great deal of career progression opportunity for someone starting out. Be flexible and work collaboratively with colleagues, clients and even competitors alike.

Would you say that, compared to other jobs/industries you have worked in, TR has a better representation of women?

I’ve been in TR for quite some time. Previously my work roles have been in quite niche industries (Experiential Promotions / Dancer) all in which women were quite well represented… although probably with less development opportunity.

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Maria HoneyName: Maria Honey

Job Title: Head of Human Resources

How long have you worked in the travel retail industry? 15 years

What’s the best part about your job?

Without a doubt, our biggest asset as a company is our people. In my role I get to support our employees, nurture and drive talent, and have the opportunity to help, even at times if it’s only in the smallest of ways.

How do you achieve work-life balance?

As women I find we can often put pressure on ourselves to work as if we don’t have a family, and live home life as if we don’t have a job. I think it’s important to make your life work for you, however that might look. Be flexible, remove unnecessary pressure and make the most of the times that you do switch off.

Do you feel that women are well represented in this industry?

I think we are fortunate that Travel Retail is a very gender diverse industry, which means we are lucky to work alongside some really inspiring leaders of the industry.

What advice would you give to young women who want to get into this industry?

Have confidence and passion in what you believe in.

For further reading, check out this DFNI feature article: International Women’s Day 2019: Balancing the scales for women in Travel Retail