Suzie was a co-founder of the M&S Buddy Network Wellbeing Diversity & Inclusion, and now works closely with other groups covering race, gender and LGBT+. She’s heterosexual, but you won’t find a stronger or prouder ally of the LGBT+ community, attending numerous events including London Pride and external speaker events.
Coming from Generation X, Suzie was a teenager when HIV/AIDS hit the headlines and remembers how it fostered a culture of fear and mistrust at the time. And now? “I think with every subsequent generation that sense of fear and shame is diminishing, which is great,” she says. “There’s more information now available to those of us outside the LGBT+ community, which has led to greater understanding of life as an LGBT+ person. There’s less stigma, too, as new generations have grown up seeing LGBT+ people in the public eye.”
Our LGBT network now has over 800 members connecting M&S employees across the country, and running its own Facebook and Twitter accounts. ” Establishing the M&S LGBT+ network was the start of shining a torch on issues that hadn’t been raised before,” says Suzie. “It’s the ideal place for people to direct ideas, suggestions and concerns. And the network is doing more for the community. Last year, a group of us used our paid volunteer days to support the Terrence Higgins Trust with their preparations for London Pride. We gave a donation and made up some 4,000 safe-sex packs to hand out. And more volunteering days are planned this year in a number of cities.”
This will be the third year running that M&S has been involved in London Pride, and we’re also supporting events in Manchester, Edinburgh and Chester, among other places. But Suzie wants more straight people to come along: “We need everyone to be involved. London Pride is the best party in the capital after all, full of joy, fun and hope! Last year, we had a big trolley of Percy Pigs that we threw to the crowds as we went along. If you’re going to London Pride, or any Pride event, give us a wave and a big cheer – it will be great to see you!”
Suzie also believes that joining Stonewall was a turning point for LGBT+ at M&S. “Stonewall facilitated a confidential listening group with our LGBT+ community and worked with us to start an action plan on all aspects of LGBT+ inclusion. Year on year, we’ve seen amazing jumps in our rankings within the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index – it will be fab to see them grow further and further.”
That sums up Suzie’s view on LGBT+ inclusion at M&S: that we’ve done a lot but we can do more, not just at grass roots’ level but at every level. “We need more people to stand together, more initiatives like the same gender wedding cards to make M&S the most inclusive place to shop and to work.”Inside M&S
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR OUR LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY
Jon is Store Manager at M&S Ealing Broadway and, two and a half years ago, was one of the founders of our LGBT+ network. He’s proud of what the network has achieved as a forum on which to ask questions and offer ideas on LGBT+ issues. “The network has really helped our LGBT+ colleagues. It was following suggestions on our network site that we bought in LGBT+ lanyards for head office colleagues and pin badges for stores. That we’ve reviewed and updated some of our diversity policies. And that we’ve introduced same-sex-marriage cards in 200 of our stores,” he says.
This year, once again, Jon’s on the Pride steering group, taking a lead around communications and working on various events. Our involvement in Pride responds to calls from colleagues across the business who want to make a statement and show everyone that we support LGBT+ inclusion. This year, we’re attending events from Edinburgh across to Belfast and down to London so even more colleagues can get involved. “Pride is a chance for friends from around the country to put on their ‘out of office’, leave their work phones at home and converge on a city for the weekend and have fun. To me, there’s something liberating, relaxed and safe about Pride celebrations,” he says.
Last year, Jon was running M&S Eden High Wycombe. “One of my proudest moments was hiring a cinema screen near our store in High Wycombe and hosting a free, public showing of the film ‘PRIDE’. Probably what felt the most impactful thing we did last year was paying for and making up 4000 safer-sex packs for the Terrence Higgins Trust to hand out over the London Pride weekend. It really felt that we were doing something meaningful that was supporting our community.”
Jon knew he was probably gay at the age of eight, but he waited another ten years before he came out, something he believes made him more self-doubting and more self-critical. Not that this has affected his career at M&S – wherever he’s worked Jon has felt accepted for who he is. “When I decided to join M&S, whether or not there was a diverse and inclusive culture, wasn’t a factor – but 12 years later, it’s definitely a reason I’ve stayed. If I were to go somewhere else and couldn’t be open and honest about my sexuality, I would leave.”
Jon points to a study in New York which showed that 62% of graduates choose not to disclose their sexuality on their first job, instead going back into the closet. “I really believe that having to put brain power and energy into concealing a part of your identity stops you being the best version of yourself in the workplace. As a Store Manager, I’m really aware of how important it is to create an environment where everyone can come into work and be themselves.”Inside M&S
EXPANDING OUR PRESENCE IN THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
After opening our first store in the highlands of Scotland, we’re thrilled to announce our further expansion into this beautiful corner of the world. Oban, the largest town between Helensburgh and Fort William, is known as the gateway to the Hebrides. It is uniquely placed to serve tourists and locals alike, from the Highlands to the Islands.
Our Food Hall will serve neighbouring isles, including Mull which is one of the largest in Scotland, as well as the many townships and villages nearby. This latest opening is one of only two dual language stores in Scotland, and will have its very own dedicated customer service and ordering desk. We’ll be located within a retail park full of amenities, and will be recruiting for a wide range of different opportunities.
Various shifts are available for Salesfloor Customer Assistants, Store Operations Customer Assistants, In Store Bakery Assistants, FHSO, and Admin Assistants. If you’re arriving by train, we’re well connected to the Glasgow-Fort William railway, and by road we’re at the end of the A82 and A85 connecting Glasgow and Stirling.
Here’s what store manager Stuart has to say about our new M&S Simply Food store in Oban:
“Oban is a beautiful and exciting location for our new M&S store. We are proud to bring a dual language site to Oban and are delighted to be serving our customers both from the Highlands and the islands in this unique location. The store intends to have a real community feel and we know the community themselves are eagerly anticipating our opening here.”
Apply for a job at our new Oban store here.Inside M&S
A WARM RECEPTION
Kath is Section Manager at the New Change Simply Foods store – bisexual and non-binary, they attended their first Pride through M&S. “Although I’ve been in and around the periphery of a few Prides, last year was my first full Pride experience.”
But the decision came with some deliberation, “I was relatively new to M&S, so I signed up to the M&S London Pride via Yammer. I was initially quite hesitant, as I suffer from incredible social anxiety and a huge fear of crowds. However, I couldn’t have wished for a better day. Everyone was so welcoming and inclusive, and it was such an amazing thing to be part of the march, such an incredible experience.”
And the pleasant surprises didn’t stop there: “Ultimately, that day led onto me being involved with the M&S LGBT+ network, working towards planning further Pride events and other LGBT+ initiatives within M&S.”
But for Kath, Pride also brings with it a sense of responsibility. “Although some might say Pride in later years has become more celebratory than a protest for LGBT+ rights, Pride must always have activism at its heart and, as such, serve as a reminder of what has been achieved and a motivation to push forward. As we celebrate our diversity and equality, we must think of those who cannot celebrate, and keep those in mind who are still persecuted for who they are or who they love.”
As attitudes towards the LGBT+ community evolve, there’s still a way to go. “In my lifetime, I’ve experienced the UK transform in terms of its acceptance of the LGBT+ community; however, we’re not there yet. In the last few years I have seen a growing understanding and acceptance towards non-binary identities, but like bisexuality, often some discrimination and misunderstanding comes within the LGBT+ community itself.”
Kath’s career journey has seen a shift towards LGBT+-friendly employers. “At a store level, my colleagues treat me no differently than their non-LGBT+ colleagues and that’s how it should be. M&S does an impressive number of things for its LGBT+ employees, including support via the LGBT+ network, Yammer Group, Facebook group, events, Pride presence and so on.”
“I’m proud to be part of the M&S LGBT+ network and will be extremely proud to be in this this year’s parade, knowing how far I have come and how far we have come as a business in a year. I will fly our flag with so much ‘pride’.”Inside M&S
A friend to the cause
Although James, Store Manager in our Banbury Gateway store, doesn’t identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, he’s a proud ally of the LGBTQ+ community. “I think it’s fantastic that M&S is asking people to be themselves at work and that this is becoming ingrained in everything we do. I used to work with one of the group of staff that founded the Network so have been there since the beginning, and the work they are doing internally continues to accelerate.”
“One of the things I most like about M&S is that I have always felt comfortable being myself. In fact, some of the most inspirational leaders I have worked with have actively encouraged me to be ‘more... me.’”
And attitudes are changing toward the LGBTQ+ community, “I think if you used the phrase LGBT+ even five years ago to straight, white males like me you might have just got a shrug of the shoulders as to what it even meant. I think this shows the way the world has changed and how wherever anyone finds themselves on the LGBT+ spectrum they are increasingly recognised for who they are. However, I still feel there is a long way to go.”
But there is still much that can be done to improve society’s perception of the LGBTQ+ community, “personally I believe that there is a dangerous lack of training and empathy around how to support transgender customers in the retail sector. People without knowledge or first-hand experience (for example having friends who identify as Trans) are not confident in how to sensitively and properly help customers.”
M&S is proud to support allies of the LGBTQ+ community as well as the community itself, “I believe the steps that M&S has taken to embrace the LGBT community in the last few years has been extremely positive. I am proud to work in a business where difference is embraced, and diversity celebrated. However, I think there is still a long way to go and not everyone shares these values and beliefs. We need to continue to work hard to make sure that every single person in M&S feels comfortable being themselves and that there is no taboo stopping them reaching their potential within our organisation.”Inside M&S
M&S has got talent
All kinds of people with all kinds of talent. That’s what makes the M&S brand happen. Few of our people, however, have their talent recognised by the whole country. But that’s precisely what Nichola Roberts achieved last week and we couldn’t be more proud of her.
Nichola is an advisor from our Brotherhood Peterborough store. When she’s not delivering first-class customer service she’s wowing audiences nationwide as a member of 1940s wartime-style singing act, the D-Day Darlings. Together, they achieved the amazing feat of making it all the way to the finals of Britain’s Got Talent.
The D-Day Darlings perform classic WWII songs, such as Vera Lynn's We'll Meet Again and Land of Hope and Glory. They’ve made appearances all over the country, from London’s Imperial War museum and Royal Hospital Chelsea to The Black Country Museum, to name just a few. So far, they have raised over £40,000 for The Royal British Legion charity which supports the armed forces.
Before the show, Nichola commented, "we are over the moon we've got into the finals of Britain's Got Talent... it's incredible and I couldn't have done it without the support of my colleagues and managers at the Brotherhood Peterborough Store who've supported me every step of the way."
When the show aired last Sunday, the D-Darlings did brilliantly, coming second in their category with 21.3% of the public vote. We want to congratulate both Nichola and the D-Day Darlings on their amazing achievement. Who knows, Nichola might be bringing a rendition to the Brotherhood Peterborough Store soon. Watch this space!Inside M&S
Fashion is in our genes
High-quality, affordable fashion has long been a cornerstone of our brand at M&S. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that we’re a keen supporter of fresh, upcoming design talent. This is our third year as principal sponsor of Graduate Fashion Week; it’s a key event in the UK’s fashion calendar and as a stalwart of Britain’s high street, we’re proud to play our part in it. As a major employer of designers, we’ve been incredibly excited to see that the vibrancy and originality that’s the hallmark of British fashion, is alive and well.
To celebrate the accomplishments of the next generation of fashion talent, we hosted a series of events with some prominent figures from the industry. Fashion icon Twiggy talked to former Daily Telegraph fashion director and Hello Fashion Monthly’s editor-at-large, Hilary Alexander, about her career in fashion. As the face of the Swinging Sixties, Twiggy’s elfin looks were immortalised by Andy Warhol and she’s also starred in our own ad campaigns, as well as designing her own collections for us.
Our current design lead, Danielle Vanier, spoke to Tomas Vlachioties, about her story and how she got involved with the creation of our new Curve collection. Rounding off this engaging and informative timetable of talks was Claire Tagg. Last year’s runner up for the Womenswear award, Claire spoke to Fiona Clark about what she’s been up to over the last 12 months.
Let’s hope some of this year’s hopefuls follow in their footsteps and carve out equally successful careers. We wish them every success for the future.Inside M&S
As a novice gardener at home and a Personal Assistant to three heads of Marketing at M&S, Zoe enjoys a challenge.
But getting her garden started was no easy feat, Zoe’s space has some unexpected features, “I have a tiny courtyard garden. It’s full to bursting with plants, plus a brightly coloured tool shed, Brick BBQ and raised flower bed. There is a lot to look at and whenever people come around they always manage to find something new they hadn’t noticed before. It’s a fab space to entertain in!”
Zoe was by no means an experienced gardener when she began, either, “this is my first garden and I’ve transformed it over the last 2 years from an empty drab space to a vibrant, colourful and fun entertainment area.”
Naturally, Zoe regularly watches Gardeners’ World and was surprised to discover a competition that suited her perfectly, “the “Every Space Counts” competition was specifically for small gardens and mine clearly qualifies! Friends and family encouraged me to enter and I sent off the required 4 photos and 100 words, never expecting to hear anything back let alone be 1 of 5 finalists!”
“The day of filming was so nerve wracking and I’m definitely not a natural in front of the camera. My 3-minute segment is the last of the finalists to be shown on 1st June, then its open to a public vote. The winner is announced at Gardeners Worlds Live at the Birmingham NEC on June 14th. I’m really looking forward to attending the event as I finally get to meet Monty Don, my gardening hero! Even if I don’t win I’m still really proud to have got this far and love spending time in my tiny garden.”
Although Zoe is quickly becoming a television star, she hasn’t forgotten about her M&S colleagues, “I’ve had fantastic support from the team and colleagues I’ve worked with across the business over the last 5 years.”
If you’re looking to follow in Zoe’s footsteps, luckily, she has some very simple tips, “If you’re new to gardening just give it a go! It can be hard work, but it is so rewarding, which is exactly the same advice I’d give on joining M&S!”Inside M&S
A simply perfect location
As the 7th largest city in the UK with 440,000 residents, Sheffield offers a lot of opportunity for us and we’re putting it as a priority. Making our mark on such an influential city is very important to us, so we’re taking it one step at a time to get it right – starting with our new M&S Simply Food Norton Park store.
Speaking with the new Store Manager, Berni, we gained an insight into how the store will have an impact on our customers, colleagues and the community. “Norton is a fantastic location for our new M&S Simply Food store. It has great network links with easy access to Sheffield Centre and Chesterfield, and the team are very excited to welcome customers to this new M&S.”
Sitting in the middle of two major roads, the A61 and A6102, it’s perfect for colleagues travelling in from all directions. The store has a very special connection to the community that makes it even more important to the area. “The store is part of a development which was part of a local school that many of the local community would have attended. As part of the design features of the building, the store will have a living wall and fabulous windows allowing lots of natural light.”
With a reputation to uphold for the store already, we’re looking for brilliant new colleagues who can set the standard. We’re currently on the lookout for:
Sales Floor Customer Assistants
Store Operations Customer Assistants
In-Store Bakery Assistants
There are various shifts available and you can find out more about what each of these roles entail here.Inside M&S
The Good, The Bap and The Downright Delicious
Bap, barm, butty… whatever you call it, the sandwich is one of this country’s proudest achievements. To celebrate British Sandwich Week (20 to 26 May, 2018), we’ve asked our recruitment team to share their favourites and explore why sarnies are iconic at M&S.
Ever since John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, ordered cold beef between slices of toast, his name has become synonymous with the ultimate in convenience food.
Today, sandwiches are a worldwide obsession. Everyone is competing to put their own spin on them – from New Yorkers packing their bread with pickles and pastrami, to the Germans bulking them out with something called frikadellen! In Vietnam, they have the ‘banh mi’ – a product of its French colonial past, pairing crusty baguettes with Asian style pork and veggies. Delicious!
And for M&S, we certainly hold sandwiches close to our heart. Many retailers come up with their own creations, but few are as successful as us. Did you know we were the first retailer to bring the Turkey Feast to the UK high street? It’s all the flavours of Christmas Dinner between two slices of bread.
Of course, our competitors pinch a few of our ideas – but that’s where our Product Developers and Food Technologists come into their own. They whip up sensational new recipes and continue making them more irresistible as the years go by.
Every one of our customers looks to us for the finest quality – especially in our Food Halls. For us, the sandwich has become a symbol of how we can take something so common, and make it better by being innovative and in-touch with modern tastes.
Want the inside scoop on some of the best sarnies we serve up? Look no further. We asked some of our recruitment team to tell us their favourites, and the results are in.
“Egg Mayonnaise! You can have it morning noon or night. Rain, wind or shine. It’s the sandwich that keeps giving from first to last bite.”
“It’s got to be the Coronation Chicken. Mainly because it has onion seeds in the bread. It adds a lovely flavour!”
“Am I allowed a wrap? My favourite is the Chicken Caesar – yum, yum! But, if I had to pick a sandwich, it would be a good, old-fashioned BLT.”
“It’s got to be the New York Deli Pastrami if I’m feeling adventurous or the Ham and Mustard Mayo when I’m not!”
“Got to be the Hoisin Duck Wrap for me… reminds me of my favourite Chinese meal and the wrap makes me think I am being healthy!”
“Classic Tuna and Sweetcorn but it must be eaten with Salt and Vinegar crisps! Prawn mayo is also a front runner for me and has been a staple in the M&S sandwich collection for some years.”
“The Salt Beef and Coleslaw is amazing.”
“My favourite is a tossup between the Wensleydale and Carrot Chutney or the New York Deli Salt Beef on rye bread, with a side of chicken teriyaki skewers!”
“Christmas Turkey Feast!”
“The humble Ham and Cheese for me.”Inside M&S