Or so the saying goes and it would seem the adage is at last beginning to ring true for women working in the markets industry.
Researching leading and influential women in the markets industry is not an easy task; rather than uncovering a wealth of information about our female Market Managers, company Directors and Chief Executives, more often than not, information about women in other areas of business and other industries pop up. Molly Malone is probably one of the most universally known female traders, her statue on Suffolk Street in Dublin is a homage to her tireless trading of cockles and mussels and she is even celebrated with a national day. But given that there is so much more to our industry than predominantly male market traders (as vital as they are of course) why is it that the loudest voice at the top is still a male one and we have to go back to the 19th Century to find a celebrated woman?
Yes we have a few notable women in the higher echelons, markedly women like Jan Lloyd, Chief Executive of Covent Garden Market Authority and Chair of the European Regional Group of World Union of Wholesale Markets. But the headcount of female influencers in 2015 still remains proportionately low.
One company, Market Place, the UK’s leading specialist market operators seem determined to buck this trend. The successful company provides a range of services to the markets industry and was founded (quite traditionally) by two men, Allan Hartwell and Ian Hill, both of whom are highly regarded for their experience and expertise. But there is something that sets them apart, Allan and Ian have both from the off, been instrumental in elevating the position of women within their own company.
This is evidenced by the role Maryjane Hartwell has played since the inception of the company in 2004. She has been a behind the scenes tour de force since the gentlemen first came up with the notion of establishing the award-winning company. She has advised on many decisions, even coming up with the company name.
One of the first opportunities Market Place seized was to deliver two Christmas Markets, one in Belfast and the other in York. With Ian in York, Allan and Maryjane headed to Belfast for the very first year of the now acclaimed Belfast Christmas Market and just like her male counterparts she got stuck in, helping to deliver the pilot project which has in turn secured an eleven year relationship between Market Place and Belfast City Council.
Following a very successful career in the Civil Service Maryjane started out just one day a week helping out in administration and accounts but in reality, as is often the case with employees of new companies, turning her hand to anything that needed to be done. She brought with her extensive experience in finance and administrative management and quickly established herself as a significant contributor to the successful and rapid growth of the company. In 2009 when the company secured the contract to deliver markets at the Tall Ships in Belfast, Maryjane headed up the behind the scenes management of the project. Since then she has remained full time with the Market Place and is now Director of Finance and Administration.
Throughout my working life I have always felt strongly that I should be assessed on my abilities and results and that is exactly how I am treated in Market Place. This has enabled me to explore and take on new challenges that have benefited myself and the company. Markets have always been as much about the people (man or woman) as the product and I am sure the industry in the 21st century will seek to engage with the best people for the job, which will hopefully lead to a greater number of women in the industry at all levels.
Market Place has consistently demonstrated that their primary concern is with appointing the correct people to do the job, regardless of their sex of background.
In 2009, whilst working on an interim management project with Bolton Council they came across a member of their administrative team whom they immediately identified as having huge potential.
That person was Jackie Casey, who had worked in an administrative role at Bolton Market since 1999. When the existing Market Manager retired there was an obvious gap to be filled and she was persuaded by the interim management team to make the challenging move. Needless to say it wasn’t long before she was gaining recognition for her work.
She was instrumental in the rebranding of Bolton Market and came up with the ‘Support Local Life’ initiative which is now acknowledged both inside and outside of the Market Industry and used by the ATCM as an example of good practice.
In 2013 she was the first woman to be named Market Manager of the Year by the National Market Traders Federation (NMTF). The accolade was awarded to her again the following year, this time by the National Association of British Market Authorities (NABMA).
In 2014 Jackie managed a £4 million redevelopment at Bolton Market, and she also managed the team that delivered Bolton’s Food and Drink Festival, now one of the top ten festivals in the UK. With each award came a new confidence and when she was approached by Market Place in 2014 to become their Business Development Manager, Jackie jumped at the chance.
‘I have always felt supported in my various roles within the industry, but it is fair to say I am one of only a handful of women to hold the title of Market Manager. That said I do see change happening, albeit slowly, with the appointment of more female Market Managers in other cities such as Leeds and Belfast. I am proud to work for a company that fully utilises my skills and talent first and foremost. I would of course like to see more female influence in the sector and I am hopeful that this is will happen in due course.’
In the same year, Sairah Butt joined the Market Place team as Market Manager of the newly refurbished Harborough Market.
The company was thrilled to recently collect the title of ‘Independent Retailer of the Year’ for their work with Harborough Market at the stylish Niche Magazine awards ceremony in Leicestershire. Since its re-opening last year under the management of Market Place, Harborough Market Hall has fast secured its place in the heart of the community, representing hundreds of local independent businesses each week.
Sairah and her team have turned the performance of the local authority market around with weekly footfall increasing from 20,000 to a staggering 43,000.
As the industry has changed with the times, so too has business
promotion. In true innovative style, Market Place has been keen to employ new technology into their operations. Emma Rhodes is a young woman now delivering the day-to-day running of the digital platforms of the company, implementing the strategic objectives as identified in the company’s larger communications strategy. She has been instrumental in propelling the company into the 21st century with her use of social media, proactively raising awareness of events and company success.
With six women currently sitting on the Executive Board of the National Market Traders Federation, four on the Association of Town and City Management and two on the Executive Team of the World Union of Wholesale Markets, thankfully it seems that change is happening. Managing Director of Market Place, Allan Hartwell is hopeful that women will soon be recognised at a senior level across the industry.
‘Our industry is traditionally male dominated and that is no longer reflective of what is happening on the ground. More and more of our traders and producers are female; more of our managers are women. It is fitting therefore that their voice is represented. I believe that the industry can only benefit from equality across the board.’