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internationl womens day

The Lowdown

Celebrating Women's Empowerment This International Women's Day

Not all heroes wear capes and this International Women’s Day we’re celebrating the successful women behind our brand who are making real change, not only for Primark but for the planet too. There are 60,000 women across our business making their mark day after day.

Mar 6 · 2 min read

Paul Marchant, Primark CEO

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‘This International Women’s Day we celebrate the outstanding women at Primark and take great pride in their achievements, both as individuals and wider team members. I’m honoured to showcase some of the amazing female talent we have across the Primark brand. This year we highlight our colleagues who are striving to bring real change to the welfare of their teams, how we operate as a business, and how we protect the future of the planet.

Here at Primark, we believe in always creating an environment that empowers our people to thrive. This means embracing inclusivity and diversity while developing future leaders who champion equal opportunity and representation.

Read on to hear from the women themselves, as they share their stories with you about the initiatives they’re championing for us as a brand, who they look to for inspiration and their advice on the small changes we can all make for a more sustainable future.’

Ciara Ruane - Director of People & Culture

Ciara has worked at Primark for four years and leads on our Diversity and Inclusion agenda, our wellbeing strategy and our corporate giving programmes. She’s extremely passionate about offering everyone the opportunity to grow, learn and succeed in a workplace they can be proud of.

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Tell us about one Primark Cares project you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?

I’m so proud to lead the Diversity and Inclusion agenda in Primark. Our people are at the heart of all that we do and I want our 79,000 Primark colleagues to feel comfortable in the knowledge that our organisation celebrates diversity, champions female entrepreneurship and breaks down the barriers of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability and culture. I try to live by these principles, and as a mother of four I hope to pass these same values on to my own children.

How important is it for big companies like Primark to give back to charity?

I believe that for us it’s not just a nice to have, it’s a need to have. As a leading retailer we have a responsibility to care for people in communities in the countries where we source and where we sell. Our Primark x UNICEF partnership helps to address the urgent needs of children in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities but we’re not blind to the needs of people in our own local communities.

Do you have a personal mantra or life motto that you live by?

‘Strive for progress, not perfection’ – as people, parents, colleagues, friends we’re on a never-ending journey of self-improvement and I feel this motto is also particularly relevant when I think about Primark Cares. We don’t have all the solutions, every day we work towards a better tomorrow.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

‘You can’t be everything to everyone’ – by taking on too much we can actually achieve less. Life is about balance and making time for the things you value. For me, that’s spending time with my family and I feel so lucky to work for an organisation that promotes a healthy work life balance and gives me the flexibility to prioritise both, when I need to.

Lindsey Block - Ethical Trade Controller: Solutions

Lindsey has worked at Primark for over six years in our Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability team. Her role is vast and diverse and her day to day involves supporting improved conditions for workers across our global supply chain.

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What’s the one thing you want all of our customers to know about the work you’re doing for Primark Cares?

That I couldn’t do what I do without our brilliant teams based in our sourcing countries. They work tirelessly to ensure workers’ rights are respected so we can stand proud in the knowledge that we care about the people who make products for Primark. From the selection and nurturing of local partnerships, to training and supporting factories to improve their workplaces, to the constant dialogue with factory managers and workers to ensure that our work is having a positive impact. Every time I visit one of these teams I leave inspired, motivated and incredibly proud to be part of this Primark Cares agenda.

Is there one particular Primark Cares project you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?

We run a project in Bangladesh, funded by the UK and Swiss government, called Suddokho. This project helps factories to better train their sewing operators. Through this project I’ve had the privilege to hear the stories of many workers; many are women who’ve had little access to education. I’ll never forget hearing first-hand what the opportunity to learn technical skills and work in a formal job, earning a regular income, can mean to these women. The pride in their faces, the changes that they’ve experienced in their personal lives, the support they’ve been able to provide their loved ones. This is real women’s empowerment. I’m proud that we’ve introduced this impactful project to over 50 of our suppliers' factories.

What do you do personally to be more sustainable and economically aware?

I don’t eat animals and I keep to a predominantly plant-based diet. I also try to keep myself as informed as possible about the impacts of the choices we face as consumers, so that I can try to make decisions that align to my values.

Do you have a personal mantra or life motto that you live by?

I have two: ‘What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ (Mary Oliver, poet), and ‘Be the person your dog thinks you are’! I try to live by both these mottos, summarised in my mind as ‘live life and be kind’.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Enjoy life, be brave and don’t worry. The things that you worry about are never the things that cause the biggest problems!

Maria Lara - Retail Assistant Eastbourne

Maria has worked in Primark’s Eastbourne store for the past three years and worked in the Croydon branch in London prior to that. She is a retail assistant based within the womenswear department and is passionate about keeping her section neat and tidy at all times. She loves supporting the customers when they’re looking for specific items but also makes sure she supports her colleagues on the tills when the store gets busy.

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Tell us about one Primark Cares project you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?

I love our Primark Cares initiatives, especially our sustainable cotton projects and the sustainable products we now have in store. One of my favourite things about Primark is that they give so much to charity. They also support local charities and each store can choose a charity to fundraise for throughout the year. This year, Eastbourne are supporting the Beachy

Head Chaplaincy Team: Saving lives at Beachy Head, a search and rescue charity that seeks to save lives and offer support especially to those contemplating suicide. Primark gave us £750 to get us started and through fundraising events like bingo, quiz nights and cake sales we have so far raised £1000 to help the charity.

Who is the most inspirational woman in your life?

Mary of Nazareth is the woman who has inspired me the most. Her strength, courage, dedication and love are all qualities I look up to.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of advice I have received is to ‘Be myself and to always do things with care and love.’

What are small sustainable changes we can all make?

We can all do things to use less plastic in our day to day lives, for me I always make sure that I use reusable bags when I go shopping. It’s so easy but makes a big change.

Annamaria Kelly - Head of Quality & Compliance

Annamaria joined Primark five years ago in the position of Beauty Technologist, but her role has changed and grown since then. She’s now responsible for the quality of all non-apparel products making sure they’re all fit for purpose and meet Primark’s quality expectations. She’s also part of the Product Compliance team who set the standards that all Primark products need to comply with. .

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Tell us about one Primark Cares project you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?

One program I’m particularly proud of is our Cruelty Free International accreditation. For me CFI do an important role in raising awareness of animal testing. This was one of the largest accreditation programs CFI have had and it involved us looking at over 7,000 raw materials in our products to ensure we met the strict criteria. All of our own label PS Beauty products were accredited with Leaping Bunny in July 2018 and work continues to ensure all new products also meet this criteria.

What are small sustainable changes we can all make?

Walk more and drive less is one change I am trying to make in my day to day life. Better for the planet and my health.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

‘Say yes to any opportunity, even if it’s outside your comfort zone.’ During my career I was asked to take on a new project on a product category I knew nothing about, that also involved frequent travel abroad – I said yes and this shaped my career.

What do you do when you want to feel extra confident?

When I want to feel extra confident I always talk to someone. I have a great female support network in my team who are always there to give me a confidence boost when I need it. It’s the little things people say that can really give you the impetus to do anything.

Kelly Gernon - Ladieswear Designer

Kelly has worked at Primark for six and a half years within the design team. Her role consists of trend forecasting, analysis and creation. Kelly’s favourite thing about her job is how varied each day is; from sourcing the newest technology in fabric and dye techniques, to preparing new samples, or travelling the world for inspiration.

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Tell us about one Primark Cares project you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?

This season I’ve been involved in the womenswear product for the Primark Wellness campaign. As a global business, even the smallest sustainable things we do can have a big impact. To be involved in the design and creation of garments made from organic cotton and recycled polyester is really rewarding. The team did an incredible job putting so much thought and effort into even the smallest of details, including the hangers being made from recycled cardboard!

What are small sustainable changes we can all make?

One small thing in your day to day life can make a big difference. It could be using a reusable cup for your take away coffee, or carrying reusable cutlery if you often buy lunch out. I also carry reusable bags in my handbag when I go shopping rather than asking for a plastic bag at the till.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

’Never give up’ whether it’s a personal goal, or within work. There will be times when it’s tough, and times when it seems impossible, but if it’s something you really believe in then keep going. I think this has stood with me through life, and helped me achieve things I’m really proud of.

Who is the most inspirational woman in your life?

It would be so hard for me to pick one person as I’m surrounded by incredibly strong successful women every day in my personal and professional life. But I would have to say my mum. Her strength, resilience, and compassion are second to none.

Sheena McMahon – Store Manager for Primark American Dream

Sheena has been working for Primark for nearly five years and proudly opened Primark’s first US store in 2015. In her role she oversees the store’s day-to-day operations, while also working with a team of managers, supervisors and colleagues to help them achieve their goals.

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Tell us about one Primark Cares project you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?

I’m proud to have been one of the first Primark x UNICEF ambassadors. When we announced this partnership, I immediately knew I wanted to help spread the message about how we would be positively impacting the lives of children in Cambodia. Being on the ground in Kratie last year and seeing how Primark was helping educate and support so many was incredibly inspiring.

What are small sustainable changes we can all make?

Be conscious of what you’re buying and how it’s made and stop the ‘single use life’. Products made out of recycled material are more accessible than ever, just take a walk through the womenswear department in Primark and you’ll see!

Do you have a personal mantra or life motto that you live by?

‘Dream your biggest dream!’ I believe that no dream is too big and that anything is possible with hard work. I encourage all my teams to dream big and to share those dreams with at least one person. Once you put it out there, it’s real, so you naturally start working towards it.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

To never stop learning about yourself, about things that interest you, and about others.

Jacqui Byers - Area Manager NI

Jacqui has been working at Primark for an impressive 26 years and currently works in the position of the Interim Area Manager for Northern Ireland, supporting our nine Northern Ireland stores.

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The Belfast store was unfortunately destroyed by a fire in 2018. You’ve been inspirational in how you dealt with the aftermath of that situation and looked after the welfare of your team. Can you tell us a little about that incident and what’s made you most proud about the team you work with?

The Belfast team and I have experienced lots of highs and memorable moments since the 28th August 2018. The most important one being that we safely evacuated 1,500 colleagues, customers and contractors within 2.5 minutes. Their swift actions and calm approach saved lives; the team assisted the elderly, carried children and helped reunite friends who were separated during the evacuation. I couldn’t be prouder of them or their actions that day.

The Primark Leadership Team swiftly took control of the incident and made a conscious decision to support the Belfast team, our neighbours, and to restore our beautiful building to its former glory. The cross functional support, empathy and desire to do the right thing for all involved is truly amazing! I am immensely proud to be part of such a moral and ethical company.

Who is the most inspirational woman in your life?

My granny inspired me to be my best self. She always believed in equality and stressed that although she had a house full herself, she encouraged her granddaughters to study hard, set high expectations and dream big. The only things that could hold you back were lack of ambition and a poor work ethic, none of which were allowed in our house!

What do you do when you want to look/feel extra confident?

A good haircut always makes me feel wonderful - fresher, sharp and confident.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

‘Don’t do things right – do the right thing.’

Angela Madrid - Store Manager, Primark Gran Via

Angela has been working for Primark for almost four years and has worked her way up to store manager level. She also sits on the Spanish Charity Committee to drive charity engagement locally in Spain.

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Tell us about one Primark Cares project you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?

Giving back to the community really makes me proud and I participate in two projects in this area: Step Up at the local level, and UNICEF at the global level. Within Step Up each store chooses a local charity and for a year actively collaborates with them. Our UNICEF project is a 3-year partnership, in which Primark contributes to UNICEF’s work in both education and emergency response, improving the lives of vulnerable children.

Who is the most inspirational woman in your life?

I can’t choose just one, there are many! My aunt Mari has taught me and inspired me since I was born to always enjoy the present moment. My colleague Angela inspires me at work because she’s always looking for solutions to achieve a fair environment for all employees. My friend Minerva inspires me in my personal life because

she has achieved everything she has through perseverance and determination. If I had to say a name of someone famous that inspires me it would be Angelina Jolie, for the humanitarian work that she has done.

What do you do when you want to look/feel extra confident?

For me, feeling extra confident is about doing all the small things I enjoy; starting the day with a healthy breakfast, doing some activity like yoga, running or dancing, treating myself to a beauty treatment and indulging in my interests like painting, and eating out with friends.

What do you do personally to be more sustainable and economically aware?

I believe that sustainability is a lifestyle for me. I have integrated into my life small actions like always carrying a reusable bag for my shopping and using recyclable glass bottles. In the last two years, for short journeys I haven’t used my car and instead prioritise walking or using public transport. When I go shopping I’m more aware of what I buy, checking the labels and choosing more sustainable or recycled materials and buying locally produced food.

Ruth Martin - Senior Ethical Trade Manager for India and Sri Lanka

Ruth has been working for Primark for just over two years overseeing the implementation of the monitoring projects and sustainability programs in India and Sri Lanka. Working closely with the suppliers and their factories within India, Ruth helps Primark’s suppliers’ factories to understand and comply with our ethical and environmental standards, which are outlined in our Code of Conduct. Ruth travels frequently all over India and Sri Lanka to visit factories and suppliers and meet with the teams there.

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What’s the one thing you want all of our customers to know about the work you’re doing for Primark Cares?

I want them to know that the final products in our stores are the result of a long journey from raw materials to end product, and that there are many people and factories involved in these processes. We have a team of experts in India, and other sourcing countries, that work hard to ensure that during that journey, the workers that are producing those goods are in a good place and their rights are respected. We also work to reduce our environmental impact, together with the factories and suppliers producing for Primark.

Tell us about one Primark Cares project you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?

One project very dear to me is the My Space project. Working with St. John’s Medical College we train goodwill ambassadors in the factories, and the workers can reach out to them and talk about their issues in a safe space. It has proven a great stress reliever! The Primark Sustainable Cotton Program (PSCP) being our biggest project is a life changer for women farmers in India and when we visit their villages, they are so proud to show you how they’re making their own fertilisers, or how they have improved their farming techniques. Knowledge is power and this is what this program is giving these women.

Who is the most inspirational woman in your life?

Honestly, I would have to say my mother. She is a woman ahead of her time and has always taught me to study hard to get a good career and to be independent. There are also many other role models within society, from politicians to writers, that have shown the rest of us the way and how we could also aspire to become like them.

What do you do personally to be more sustainable and economically aware?

When I’m not using my clothes anymore, I either give them to other people or recycle them, I also borrow clothes from friends. I’m trying to reduce my consumption of single use plastics and replace them with more environmentally friendly options. And I am also supporting some children with their education because I believe giving back to society is key to making it better.

Sheetal Nischal – Environmental Sustainability Projects Manager

Sheetal has been working at Primark for just over five years. Her role within the Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability team involves working with our in-country based teams to improve our suppliers’ environmental and ethical performance. She works with various partners on the ground to build awareness in each country as well as develop projects that help improve and support more positive stewardship of our planet, the people and communities in which we operate.

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Tell us about a Primark Cares Project that you have been a part of and are most proud of?

I am mainly involved with the Primark Sustainable Cotton Program (PSCP). Cotton is often grown on small farms in developing countries, most of these farmers live in poor rural communities, their farms are often their only source of income and food. Our PSCP program provides farmers with training on natural farming methods, with the aim of reducing the environmental impact of agriculture, while helping to increase the yields. The training is carried out in partnership with locally based organisations who understand the reality on the ground. Our program in India focuses on helping women farmers and this is very special to me. We work in partnership with Cotton Connect (our technical partner) and one of the biggest women’s trade unions in India - Self Employed Women’s Association- SEWA. I am so proud to be a part of this program because it delivers real positive change for people in our supply chains, as well as the planet.

What small changes can we all make to live more economically?

My top tip is turn the temperature on your washing machine down to 30 degrees for washing and drip dry your clothes instead of using dryers. Save money and the planet - win win all round!

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be:

Live in the here and now, make the present moments count.

Do you have a personal mantra or life motto that you live by?

I am not a motto or mantra kind of person. Life is full of challenges, most of which we cannot control so I really like ‘Keep calm and carry on’!

Soleil Martinez - Ladies dept manager in Brooklyn

Soleil is in charge of the Step Up charity group in our Brooklyn store.Step Up is Primark’s charity initiative that enables all store teams to choose their own charity partner to support. By partnering with charities supporting local people, each team can see the impact their donations make within their communities.

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Tell us about one Primark Cares project you’ve been part of that you’re most proud of?

I particularly enjoyed the process for our store’s Step Up charity selection, because the whole team got involved. All of the charities we considered were worthy of our support and the Brooklyn team chose Voices of Women, which focuses on helping women and children affected by domestic violence. We have activities throughout the calendar year to help raise funds and so far we’ve raised $500 this year. I’m very proud of the efforts the team puts in raising money for this cause.

What small sustainable changes can we all make to live more economically?

Using reusable bags. A single plastic bag takes decades to decompose, using less bags by using reusable bags makes a bigger environmental impact than we think. The New York State just adopted a measure to charge for individual bags. So it’s a win win. Save the environment while saving money too.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I would tell myself: ‘Winter always turns to spring. There are always brighter days ahead’. And what you do in spring to prepare for winter is just as important.

Do you have a personal mantra or life motto that you live by?

The Charlie Chaplin song Smile. After all, I believe that our smiles are our best accessory.

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