Empowering women in retail: Reflecting on a year of support and progress at M&S

At Marks & Spencer, the celebration of International Women’s Day isn’t just a day; it’s a testament to our ongoing commitment to empower women in the workplace.

We have over 40,000 female colleagues at M&S meaning that it is imperative that our business is a brilliant place to work and grow for women.

Over the past year, we've taken significant strides in supporting and championing women across all aspects of their careers and personal lives. From innovative campaigns to groundbreaking policies, here's a glimpse into how M&S has been at the forefront of fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for women.

Forbes' Best Place to Work for Women: Being recognised by Forbes as the Best Place to Work for Women is an honour that highlights our continuous efforts in creating an equitable workplace. M&S ranked 6th in the global list and the only British company in the top 10. This accolade reaffirms our commitment to providing an environment where women not only thrive but are also valued and respected for their contributions.

Worklife Flexible Working: Acknowledging the diverse needs of our workforce, M&S has championed flexible working through our 'Worklife' programme. This initiative recognises that flexibility in retail isn’t just a perk; it's a fundamental aspect of supporting women in balancing their professional and personal lives. At the same time, we launched our Job Share Finder app, making it easier for colleagues to find job share partners across the business. Learn more about Worklife here.

Female-Majority Board of Directors: We are proud to have achieved a female-majority Board of Directors. This landmark achievement demonstrates our dedication to breaking barriers and fostering an environment where diverse perspectives thrive at the highest levels of leadership.

50% of Senior Management Roles Filled by Women: Striving for equality doesn’t stop at the boardroom. We've made remarkable progress in achieving gender parity within our senior management. With 50% of these crucial leadership positions held by women, we've set an example for the industry, showing that gender diversity at the top is not just aspirational but achievable.

Menopause Network: Understanding and supporting women through different life stages is crucial. With around 9,000 of our colleagues likely to be experiencing menopause themselves it’s important that we feel able to talk about it. That's why we established a Menopause Network, a supportive community providing resources, guidance, and a safe space for women navigating this natural phase of life while continuing to excel in their careers.

Improved family friendly policies: Parenthood shouldn’t hinder career progression. Announced last month, our enhanced maternity and paternity policies offer our colleagues access to 26 weeks maternity and adoption leave and six weeks paternity leave - all at full pay.

We were also one of the first retailers to introduce a Neonatal Leave Policy that provides up to 12 weeks’ fully paid leave to any UK colleague whose baby requires specialist neonatal care, without having to worry about using up their maternity, paternity, or adoption leave. 

These industry-leading policies are designed to provide comprehensive support to new parents, ensuring they have the necessary time, resources, and flexibility to embrace both their family responsibilities and career aspirations.

Looking beyond these specific initiatives, our commitment to gender diversity and inclusion extends to various ongoing programmes, leadership development initiatives, and continuous education on unconscious bias. We are dedicated to fostering a culture where every woman feels empowered to reach her full potential.

At M&S, we stand proud of our achievements, yet we recognise that the journey towards gender equality is ongoing. We remain steadfast in our efforts to drive positive change and create a workplace where all women feel valued, supported, and empowered to thrive.

Join us in celebrating the achievements of women in retail, today and every day.

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