In this series we will be shining a spotlight on some of the most inspiring women who are breaking down barriers, leading by example, and paving the way for the future of women in the fast-moving consumer goods industry (FMCG). There are so many incredible women that are changing the business world, and we wish we could shout about them all - but this list rounds up just a few of our top picks of women running the FMCG industry.

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Did you know, the consumer goods sector is one of the most male-dominated, with women occupying less than 30% of senior leadership roles and only 13% of C-level positions, less than any other industry? 

It is said that 80% of women are the decision-makers in their households when it comes to buying consumer goods. So it would make sense for more FMCG businesses to have women in their leadership teams in order to provide educated insight into their target audience - yet the majority of businesses are yet to take this on board! 

It’s time to challenge the stereotyping and bias that can still pervade women in the FMCG industry. Showcasing more women in business will help inspire the next generation and help attract and retain more diverse talent to help maximise innovation, creativity and competitiveness, close the gap between men and women, and pave the way for a brighter future - which is the exact reason why we’ve compiled this list. 

This list of women in fast-moving consumer goods businesses are true changemakers, breaking boundaries and paving the way for the future of females in thes industry - hoping to inspire more females to follow their career dreams.

Alessandra Bellini - Chief Customer Officer at Tesco

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Alessandra is responsible for building the Tesco brand globally and putting the customer at the heart of everything that they do.

Prior to joining Tesco in 2017, Alessandra worked at Unilever for over 21 years, latterly as vice president for the food category in North America and food general manager for the USA. 

In her role for Unilever’s food business, she successfully rejuvenated its ice cream brands, which included Ben & Jerry’s, Magnum, Popsicle, Klondike and Breyers, and helped them become the market leader in the US for the first time.

She has worked the same magic at Tesco and has helped revive the business, which was struggling when she arrived. She is a true FMCG genius!

In her five years at Tesco, she has reasserted its price credentials to help fight back against the discounters, revamped its Clubcard scheme, which now offers members exclusive prices, and has succeeded in bringing customers back to the brand.

As well as all of this, Alessandra is also president of the Advertising Association, which promotes the role, rights and responsibilities of advertising and its impact on individuals, the economy and society. As she says herself she loves growing Brands, people and businesses. 

Ann Donaghey - Digital Transformation Officer at Unilever

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Ann is globally responsible for the introduction and scalable team deployment of new technology and digital tools into existing manufacturing sites to change the ways of working and support or improve on their planned outcomes, improving efficiencies and reducing bottom-line costs. 

She also works to support the cultural engagement and onboarding of 130 connected factories with 600 production Lines.

Ann refers to herself as a ‘seasoned, passionate problem-solver with broad industrial and technical knowledge and a proven people manager’.  With 20 years of broad and global experience from start-up to cGMP Biosafety level 3 within Pharma, Medical Device and FMCG environments she is able to stabilise and drive growth across large teams, complexity and projects in fast-paced, emerging or ambiguous environments while managing costs very well. 

She is a change agent passionate about WCM, STEM and cultural improvement, and is co-founder and chair of a 1000+ member Global Network within Unilever: Women in Supply Chain. She is an active ED&I ally to all and a social mobility champion and is doing all she can to make the employee experience better at Unilever. As well as the work she put into the workplace, she is also a servant leader focused on delighting the consumer and excited about new technology and digital innovations. 

Her passions and experts have not gone a miss as she has received numerous awards received within Unilever including awards for leading WCM Improvement, protecting the supply chain and the people with an extraordinary recognition award during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Dr. Athina Kanioura  - Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at PepsiCo

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Athina Kanioura is Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer at PepsiCo. 

PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated $79 billion in net revenue in 2021, driven by a complementary beverage and convenient foods portfolio that includes Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Quaker, and SodaStream.

An accomplished innovator and transformation leader, Athina oversees PepsiCo’s end-to-end strategy to win both as a total company and in key markets, including its digitalization strategy. She also leads company-wide transformation—ensuring that their scale is leveraged as they focus on accelerating profitable growth and identifying areas of cost efficiency and optimization—in addition to overseeing Data Products, Platforms, and Talent. 

Prior to joining PepsiCo, Athina was the Chief Analytics Officer and Global Head of Applied Intelligence at Accenture, where she specialised in applying AI and analytics to drive business value. During her 15 years there she grew the Applied Intelligence function from a subspecialty to a global group at the forefront of scale business transformation.  She is on a mission to transform businesses with an emphasis on data and technology, and brings many years of practical experience globally in industries such as telecoms, oil and gas, financial services, and consumer packaged goods, having worked with companies such as Mondelez, Unilever, P&G, Reckitt Benkiser, Phillip Morris, and Adidas. 

Conny Braams - Chief Digital & Commercial Officer at Unilever

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As Chief Digital & Commercial Officer, Conny is responsible for the end-to-end digital transformation of Unilever, marketing and customer development worldwide to maximise opportunities for growth. She has held this role since April 2022, previously as Chief Digital & Marketing Officer. Conny’s broad international business experience and her track record in driving change at scale are critical to lead the transformation of Unilever into a future-fit, purpose-led, fully digitised organisation at the leading edge of consumer marketing and customer development.

Having joined Unilever as a marketing trainee in 1990, Conny has held a variety of local and international Marketing, Customer Development, Communications and General Management roles across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Prior to joining the Unilever Leadership Executive, Conny was the Executive Vice President, Unilever, Middle Europe and General Manager, Unilever, Benelux where she led the complete digital rewire and marketing transformation of the region.

Externally, she has been recognised as one of the World’s Most Influential CMOs by Forbes and Global Marketer of the Year 2021 by the World Federation of Advertisers. She’s featured in Adformatie’s Top 100 marketers, PR Week’s Power List, Volkskrant Top 200 Most Influential People, Campaign’s Power 100, Campaign CMO50, Marketing Week’s Top 100 Marketers, and Provoke’s Influence 100. She was also named Adformatie Person of the Year in 2019 and Top Female Executive in the Netherlands in 2006.

Her portfolio and her drive are ones to inspire, and she is on a mission to better the world of consumer goods!

Cristina Macina - Director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé UK & Ireland

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Cristina Macina has taken on the role of Director of Corporate Affairs for Nestlé UK & Ireland since January 2020. With over 20 years of experience in the food & beverages industry, she is leading strategy for corporate media relations, digital, events, sustainability, internal communications and public affairs in the UK and Ireland.

Prior to taking up this post, Cristina was Global Head of Internal Communications and Engagement based in Vevey, Switzerland and held a number of senior communications roles at the European and market level within Purina, the pet food business.

Cristina began her career in the WPP Group, one of the biggest communications groups worldwide, gaining experience across a number of industries from transport to TLC and FMCG.

Her extensive experience is helping her take Nestle to the next level when it comes to their corporate communications!

Jo Bertram - Non-Executive Director at Sainsbury’s

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Jo joined the Board in July 2022 and is a member of the Nomination and CR&S Committees. Jo is a highly talented strategic business leader with significant experience leading transformation and change - which she has proved in her role as Managing Director, Business & Wholesale at Virgin Media O2.

Before Virgin Media O2, Jo also held senior Director and Strategy roles at O2. And between 2013 and 2017, she held the position of Regional General Manager of Northern Europe at Uber.  

Jo has worked in growing hi-tech sectors which benefits Sainsbury’s customers as they look to explore new ways to use digital solutions to make shopping easy and convenient.

Jo is using her digital skills to help transform the FMCG sector and we look forward to seeing the changes she makes to Sainsbury’s! 

Katie Bickerstaffe - Co-CEO of Marks & Spencers

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Katie has held a number of roles at M&S including non-executive director, Chief Strategy and Transformation Director and most recently, joint Chief Operating Officer. Before re-joining the Board as Co-Chief Executive Officer this year! 

Katie brings extensive experience in the retail transformation to the team at M&S from a career in a variety of functions in leading UK retailers and consumer companies. Katie has a deep understanding of digital, retail and operations, as well as experience in marketing, people, property, and as a non-executive director, to M&S.

Katie was previously Executive Chair of SSE Energy Services, where she led the separation from SSE plc and the subsequent sale to OVO. Until April 2018, Katie was Chief Executive, UK and Ireland of Dixons Carphone plc, where she led the transformation of Dixons’ retail estate, e comm and the launch of the services business. She joined Dixons in 2008 and was appointed to its Board in 2012. Prior to this, she worked with many well-known food retail and consumer companies including, Kwik Save, PepsiCo, Unilever, Dyson, and Somerfield.

Her portfolio is one to truly inspire the next generation of female leaders!

Leena Nair - Global CEO for Chanel

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Leena Nair is a British-Indian business executive who is the Global CEO of Chanel. Nair previously served as the Chief Human Resource Officer of Unilever and member of the Unilever Leadership Executive. 

Leena was responsible for the human capital of Unilever, which operates across multiple regulatory and labour environments spread over 190 countries. Under her leadership, Unilever has been named the number one FMCG graduate employer of choice in 54 countries. She headed the Diversity and Inclusion agenda for the organisation ensuring that its workforce is diverse and inclusive. 

She is also an advocate for human-centred workplaces and compassionate leadership and is doing a great job of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace at Chanel. 

“I am so inspired by what CHANEL stands for. It is a company that believes in the freedom of creation, in cultivating human potential and in acting to have a positive impact in the world,” she said. 

She is a huge inspiration and has made huge changes to the FMCG industry - and her work has not gone unnoticed as she was awarded the Great British Businesswoman’s, Role Model of the Year Award, last year.

Liz Evans - Managing Director of George, Asda

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Liz Evans joined Asda in January 2022 to lead George and its general merchandise business.

She spent her early career at M&S in roles across retail, womenswear and its international business, before leading a number of UK fashion brands; prior to joining Asda, Liz was the CEO of family lifestyle brand FatFace.

Liz is an Honorary Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University and is a passionate advocate for the development of female leaders in retail. She is a Non-Executive Director on the Prince’s Trust Charity Trading Board and an active supporter of the charity ‘Speakers for Schools’.

Her role at the ethically minded brand FatFace will help her transform George at Asda into a more sustainably conscious brand, which will open up new audiences and collaborations. 

“It is a business with a proud history and exciting future that I’m delighted to be part of,” says Liz. 

Manju Malhotra - Chief Operating Officer of Harvey Nichols Group

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Manju Malhotra has had a progressive 22-year career with Harvey Nichols, and she has led the business as COO since 2018. Prior to that, she was the CFO. During her time with the brand, she has been at the heart of commercial performance and technology. Having re-defined the business strategy, she has delivered record financial performance and has driven an omnichannel customer experience. Her track record working with commercial organisations has created exclusive customer programmes and an enviable stable of partners.

Having put sustainability at the heart of Harvey Nichols’ approach she has driven the agenda with partners, suppliers and stakeholders. Manju dedicates her personal time to supporting charities on poverty in the capital and providing mentoring support to underprivileged young people.

Amongst her accolades are Asian Women of Achievement 2019, Ambassador for Women of the Future Network and being recognised by The Evening Standard as one of London’s most influential people, as well as Retail Week’s Power List and Drapers Fashion Retail Power 100. Manju is a Chartered Accountant and has a BSc in Economics from Warwick university.

Nicole Hallak - UK & Ireland Brand Director at Pampers

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Nicole calls herself a strategic, passionate and energetic business leader, wife and mother of 2. 

After graduating in 2009 with a degree in Marketing, she joined Procter & Gamble - the umbrella company of Pampers - straight away. 

Starting out working on brand marketing for the shaving brand Gillette she then moved to Gillette, she then moved to Dubai for the brand joining the Hair Care family as the Head & Shoulders iMEA ABM, as part of the design team. 

After her maternity leave, she returned to a media assignment, innovating Digital for the region with centralized planning, buying and content creation, before relocating once again to Cairo as the local delivery Marketing manager, amidst the Arab Spring uprising. 

After having her second child she relocated to the UK, where she took the lead on Braun for Northern Europe, growing the brand across bricks & clicks and pureplay, where she discovered her passion for e-commerce. In this role, her expertise led her to take lead on Amazon’s sales strategy & planning for 9 months to maximize her commercial learning. 

She then took on an Amazon brand manager position, leading the P&G portfolio and designing the “how to win” strategies. Her extensive career and expertise all lead her to where she is now - managing Baby Care for Northern Europe- P&G’s most iconic love brand, Pampers- with end-to-end brand-building responsibilities and business management.

If it isn’t clear by her inspiring work ethic - Nicole takes on everything with a positive, go-getter attitude. “Whatever I do, I do with my mind, heart & gut… with a smile!” she said.

Payal Bangar  - Senior Brand Manager, Olay at Procter & Gamble

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Payal has had an extensive career within brand management, and she is helping take Olay to new levels, after being appointed as the brand’s manager last year. 

She is a management professional with skills in developing and implementing branding strategies, delivering ROI & sales-focused marketing solutions covering the entire spectrum of ATL, BTL and Digital Marketing; with experience in the FMCG sector. 

Payal is not only the amazing Olay senior brand manager, she is also a published author with a range of international experience in multiple industries. Labelled a creative problem solver, Payal has an enviable ability to step back and critically consider diverse approaches to the task at hand and since joining P&G, Payal has worked on both Seven Seas and Vicks. 

Despite having more than five years experience within healthcare, Covid-19 forced Payal to take on new challenges as she re-evaluated Vicks’ marketing strategy to ensure the brand remained relevant. 

Since joining the Olay team in 2021, team members say she’s, “brought passion and enthusiasm, as the brand continues its journey to reach new audiences. She continues to harness everything she has learned to better the business, her teams and herself; a quality that makes her a truly outstanding P&G-er.”

Roisin Currie - CEO of Greggs

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Roisin began her career at Asda where she spent 20 years, latterly as Retail People Director and then as Distribution People Director. Roisin joined Greggs in 2010 as Group People Director and later became Retail and Property Director before being appointed as Chief Executive in May 2022. 

Roisin is also Chair of the Employers Forum for Reducing Re-offending, a voluntary role working with the Ministry for Justice and New Futures Network. She also helped develop Greggs’s online business, which has been pivotal in getting the food-on-the-go specialist through the pandemic.

Roisin’s career is one to inspire, and we’re also honoured to have her on board as one of our Great British Businesswoman Awards judges - to help celebrate other female businesswomen.  

In a recent interview with ourselves Rosin said: “I feel passionately about supporting women to develop their careers and truly believe that by celebrating each other’s successes, we can encourage and inspire more female leaders in future.”

Sharon White - Chairman at John Lewis Partnership

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Sharon became the Partnership’s Chairman in February 2020. Sharon moved from Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, where she served as Chief Executive. Before joining Ofcom, Sharon was Second Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, responsible for overseeing the public finances. She also held Board level positions at the Ministry of Justice and the Department for International Development, worked as an adviser at the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit and in Washington DC as a senior economist at the World Bank.  

Sharon who grew up in east London, joined the Civil Service in 1989 and took on a number of senior roles throughout her lengthy career and is very vocal about how the only other black people when she worked at the Treasury in the ‘90s were ’cleaning the loos’. 

As well as her mission to make John Lewis more purpose-driven, she is also an advocate for diversity and inclusion in the industry! 

Shirine Khoury-Haq - CEO of The Co-operative Group

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Shirine joined the Co-op Executive in August 2019 and is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Executive Officer of Life Services. Shirine is also a Non-Executive Director of Persimmon Public Limited Company and a member of The Tower Trust.

Shirine has had an extensive career and before joining the co-op, was Chief Operating Officer for Lloyd’s insurance market, which comprised more than 50 leading insurance companies operating with over 200 Lloyd’s brokers. Her remit included global operations, business transformation, data, information technology and corporate real estate. She also led the modernisation programme for the wider London insurance industry.

Shirine’s career has been a transition from finance to consulting, and then to operations. She started in the US public sector before moving on to telecommunications, consumer products, retail and then insurance. She has led global teams delivering large-scale technology and business change in FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 organisations, including several mergers and acquisitions. She has worked in the US, UK, across Europe and the Asia Pacific.

Shirine’s portfolio is truly impressive, and she is a shining example of the amazing work women can do for the FMCG industry, as she spearheaded a number of huge businesses. 

The Great British Businesswoman Awards are taking place on the 29th of November 2022, and it’s one you won’t want to miss. The awards will bring together the 2022 cohort of finalists, judges, partners and special guests to recognise, celebrate and support women in business, champion their peers and advocates, and help foster the next generation of female business leaders - it’s one you won’t want to miss: Book your tickets to the event here.