By Claire West

everywoman, the leading resource for women in business has announced the finalists in the 2009 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards. Now in its second year, these awards, in association with Make Your Mark, seek to identify and celebrate the contribution made by the women excelling within the sector. By recognising and rewarding the achievements of these positive role models, the programme highlights the opportunities available for women wanting to pursue a challenging and rewarding career in retail.

The finalists are as follows:

Hidden Talent of the Year

Amber Blake, General Counsel (UK), QVC
Kim Roberts, Head of Retail Human Resources, WM Morrison Supermarkets
Rhonda Floyd, Senior Customer Services Manager, McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd.

Star of the Future (sponsored by Royal Mail)

Emma Green, Brand and Marketing Services Manager, The Midcounties Co-operative
Leah Boothe, Operations Manager, McDonald’s Restaurants Ltd.
Lucy Clarke, Store Manager, The Co-operative Group

Leader of the Year

Elaine Roughley, Operations Manager, Clinton Cards
Gwyn Burr, Customer Director, Sainsbury’s Plc.
Suzanne Marshall, Area Manager, Argos Ltd.

Entrepreneur of the Yeas

Clare Thommen, Managing Director, Boudiche
Holly Tucker and Sophie Cornish, Managing Directors and Co-founders, notonthehighstreet.com
Wendy Hallett, Managing Director, Hallett Retail

Inspiration of the Year

Helen Humphrey, Vice President National Operations, McDonalds Restaurant’s Ltd.
Samata Angel, CEO, Head Designer and Author Samata’s Muse
Tarra Simmons, Learning and Development Manager, The Midcounties Co-operative

Store Manager of the Year

Donna Hunter, Store Manager, The Midcounties Co-operative
Lindsey McCarthy, Store Manager, Signet Trading Ltd.
Lucie Cork, Store Manager, B&Q Plc.

Innovator of the Year (sponsored by IBM)

Laura Tenison MBE, Founder and Managing Director, JoJo Maman Bébé
Wendy Hallett, Managing Director, Hallet Retail
Alex Pike, Group Marketing Director, Simple Health and Beauty Ltd.

Despite 60% of employees in retail being female, there are very few women in senior management positions, which is why everywoman felt compelled to launch this awards programme in 2008. Indeed there are less than 5% female Chief Executives in retail companies and only 8% of purchasing decisions within these organisations are made by women*. This figure has remained virtually unchanged for the past decade and requires positive attention to address the situation and rebalance this gender split.

Maxine Benson, Co-founder and Director of everywoman remarks, “During the current economic downturn, it is important to champion the women that possess the skills necessary to ensure organisations can continue to thrive. Through highlighting the female stars in the sector, these awards prove to other women that retail is a viable and rewarding career option. An award win has huge benefits to both the company and the individual, and we wish all the finalists the best of luck.”

The panel of judges comprises a select group of women dedicated to championing the increase of women in senior roles in this industry sector. They include Sue Brownson OBE, Managing Director of Blue Bell BMW Group, Anne Seaman, CEO Skillsmart Retail, Kim Morton, Chair of the Fashion Retail Academy.

Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers says: “As an employer of nearly 26,000 staff worldwide, 70% of which are women, it is vital that we recognise the immeasurable contribution women make to the retail sector and adapt our working practices accordingly to ensure that they have the best possible opportunities to progress in their chosen career. Family friendly values, flexible working hours, clear personal development plans and life-long training that can be adapted to suit a woman’s responsibilities at varying stages of her life, are vital. I congratulate all the entrants in this year’s awards — to come this far shows commitment, resourcefulness and true retail flair — each is a shining example to all women in business.”

The winners of the seven different categories will be announced at a glittering ceremony at The Marriott, Grosvenor Square, on 16 September. For table bookings and ticket enquiries, please contact everywoman directly on 020 7981 2574 or for further information visit www.everywoman.com