In celebration of International Women’s Day, we sat down with some of the brilliant female minds behind the Primark brand.
They discussed with us their inspirations, retold memories, and shared words of wisdom for becoming a successful woman in business. Want to feel motivated and inspired? Scroll down to meet some of our amazing team who keep Primark turning day after day.
Nieema Hassan - Assistant Buyer, Health and Beauty
Nieema believes in being true to yourself, at all times. She is a lover of self-care regimes, and red lippy for that extra boost of self-confidence, when needed. She also shared with us a lil’ beauty tip, so read on to find out! Who is the most inspirational woman in your life, and why? My mum! She has always pushed me to be who I want to be, and not let anyone tell me otherwise. Coming from a Muslim background, there can be stereotypes of how a Muslim family should behave, but she let my sisters and I make decisions for ourselves. What do you wear on a day when you need just a little bit more girl power? Red lipstick. As a beauty expert, what would you recommend for the ultimate pamper night? Listening to music, while treating yourself to beauty treatments. I like having a facial using the Primark Vitamin C range. My top tip is to leave the Vitamin C brightening serum on overnight.
Paula Dumont Lopez - Trading Director
Paula has a positive outlook on life, seeing the best in the people around her, while nurturing her own strengths. And inspired by her superwoman mother, she has developed a brilliant passion and appreciation towards life What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about being a woman in business? It’s really important to understand the business from beginning to end, start from the bottom and work your way up. It’s crucial to be consistent, patient, positive, and optimistic, only looking back to learn from your mistakes. Having support around you is very important, I owe my success to my husband, who is my pillar of strength and support. Without him I couldn’t have achieved my goals and dreams. Who was your female role model growing up? Without a doubt, my mother! She raised six children and also pursued her dream job in the film industry. She had a huge amount of passion and worked extremely hard, as both a mother and professional. She taught me to work hard and be passionate. What’s your life motto? Be the best version of yourself in everything you do. I don't think you ever succeed at trying to be anyone else.
Jane McCourtie, Finance Manager, Supply Chain
Jane’s mantra is ‘believe in yourself, and know your worth’ and we couldn’t agree more. Based in Primark’s UK warehouse in Islip, Jane is a working mum with big ambitions, and the drive to push herself forward. What are the benefits about being a woman in a male dominated department? I think there is real admiration. I am a working mum with two young children which is a job in itself, but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to be the best at what I do, and have the ambition to progress and further my career like anybody else. Who was your female role model growing up? Definitely my mum. From as far back as I can remember my mum always worked hard to provide for us (I’m one of five), as well as running a house and supporting us as we were growing up. She has done a fantastic job! This is where I get my work ethic from and am hopefully instilling in my own children. I know if I work really hard I can achieve anything I set out to. What motivates you? My family. Everything that I do and achieve through my career is for me to share with them and seeing them happy and enjoying life is priceless!
Katharine Stewart – Director of Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability
Katharine has worked for Primark for over 10 years, and is passionate about collaborating with our local stakeholders to bring about sustainable change for those working in our supply chain, and their communities. What have you learned from working in a global business? I’m responsible for Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability at Primark, and I’ve learnt how incredibly important it is to the take the time to develop a good understanding of the different countries and cultures in which we operate. For example, in Bangladesh where literacy levels are low, we train those working in our suppliers’ factories about fire safety using a drama we developed with a local non-profit organisation, as theatre as a form of communication is common in Bangladesh communities. What gives you a great sense of achievement? As well as monitoring the standards in our supply chain, we have numerous programmes that tackle different issues from fire safety, worker empowerment and skills training, to our Sustainable Cotton Programme, which trains farmers in India and Pakistan to grow cotton in a more sustainable way. Seeing the positive impact of our ethical trade and sustainability programmes on the ground gives me a great sense of achievement. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, from whom and in what context? To take the job. That was the advice given to me 10 years ago by Breege O’Donoghue (Ambassador to Primark and former Board Member) when I was offered the newly created role of Director of Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability for Primark. I now manage a team of over 110 experts based in key sourcing countries, and we have been ranked a ‘leader’ by the Ethical Trading Initiative since 2011 for our work in this area.
Navdeep Powar - Trainee Buyer, Nightwear
Navdeep finds advice and comfort in her family and Primark peers. She dreams of an equal world filled with opportunities, one that she can explore and embrace. And we have no doubt that she will pioneer her dreams into reality! If you’ve had a bad day, what’s your perfect pick me up? My sisters! They know how to cheer me up, and they listen to me complain about whatever is on my mind. In the future I hope to… Have equal rights and opportunities for women across the board, and excel in my career. I’d like to travel to lots of amazing countries, and experience different cultures. What’s the best thing about working with female colleagues? They’re easy to relate to and chat with, especially if you’re having a bad day. They’re also supportive role models, who are easy to approach when asking for advice and guidance.
Lorraine Culligan, Group Director of People and Culture
Lorraine is a huge inspiration to many women in the business, as she not only heads up all of People and Culture for Primark, but she also sits on the Board of Directors. She cites resilience, courage and ambition as the three key qualities for a successful career, and believes you should always pursue your passion with all your heart. What advice do you wish you could have given your younger self? To have more belief in myself and tell myself it is ok to make mistakes. Without mistakes and failures I would have never learnt some valuable life lessons in my career and in my personal life. I now believe that everything happens for a reason and that you can have it all but just not all at once. What’s the most important piece of wisdom you’d impart to your daughters? Go out and find your true passion. Look for what inspires you and really excites you. When you find what you love to do, go out and get it. Pursue it with all your heart and I will support you every step of the way. What three qualities do you think are necessary to have a successful career at Primark? Being Resilient Resilience is my secret weapon. As we all know, the pace at Primark is very fast. Being resilient and aware of how we are under pressure is a very good quality to have. This will ensure we can work at our best more often. Courage Courage is another great quality to have in Primark. We want our people to have the courage to think differently, feel empowered and trusted to go above and beyond to deliver that next big new idea that will grow our business. Courageous people challenge us in the right way and really make an impact. Ambition It makes me so happy when I see people progressing in their careers in Primark. Being ambitious, thinking about the next steps in your career and connecting with the right people can lead to exciting opportunities.
Deirdre O’Callaghan, Retail Assistant
Deirdre is a valuable member of our team at the Penneys store in Santry, Dublin where she has worked since September 2003. The well-known employee has worked across various departments over the last few years but her fave is menswear; Deirdre’s bubbly and outgoing personality makes her popular with customers. The keen athlete, who has been kayaking since 2001, travelled to Abu Dhabi yesterday Thursday, 7th March to take part in the Special Olympics World Summer Games. What’s your life motto? Follow your dreams! I started competing in 2003 after the Special Olympics Ireland included kayaking in the World Games. And I won a silver medal! I never gave up and started by training for an hour every Friday afternoon in a local swimming pool. What’s the best thing about working at Primark? Absolutely my colleagues! They are so supportive, they always ask about my training and encourage me to wear my medals on the shop floor after I win! The team has organised different activities and events in store to raise funds and help me compete. In the future, I hope to… I travelled to Abu Dhabi yesterday to compete again as part of the Irish kayaking team… I’m hoping to take home a gold medal!
Louise O'Neill - Legal Services
When Louise was little she spent her time day dreaming about becoming a lawyer. Her dream came a reality, and she joined the busy day-to-day life here at Primark. Surrounded by a supportive team of women, Louise can be found negotiating the finer details of collection collaborations, and in-store concessions, seeing them through from concept to fruition. What are the benefits about being a woman in a male dominated department? I’m happy to say that the legal team at Primark isn’t a male dominated department. In fact, its made up of a majority of strong, supportive women. The idea that legal teams are made up of men in suits just doesn’t ring true anymore. There’s still a way to go in terms of gender equality in senior legal roles in the industry as a whole, but progress is certainly being made and that can only improve as the majority of newly qualified lawyers are now female. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I was quite young when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer, and had notions of presenting grand arguments to defend my client’s innocence in court. I never thought I would end up as a general commercial lawyer though. General commercial is the area I now work in, largely due to a set of lucky circumstances, and I love having the opportunity to work on commercial deals with tangible results. Primark certainly helped me to appreciate that commercial law can be really exciting and innovative! What motivates you? Experiencing the excitement of new products and offerings in our stores every day motivates me. Being involved in the formalities of collaborations, in–store concessions and new concepts, and then being able to see those come to fruition and enjoyed by our customers, gives me a real sense of a job well done.
Lisa Mott – Retail Assistant
Lisa has worked for Primark for two and a half years, and is based in the Reading store. Being based on the shop floor means Lisa gets to interact with our customers on a daily basis. She believes being creative, punctual, and tidy are key to having a successful career. What’s your favourite girl boss anthem? I can never pronounce the name, but Beyoncé’s sister, Solange – Don’t Touch My Hair. What do you wear when you want to feel extra confident? Anything green, because that’s my favourite colour, so if I want to feel extra confident I go for green. But, not just any green - it has to be pea green! What advice do you wish you could have given your younger self? Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Kelly-Ann Carroll - Product Business Partner, Beauty
Kelly-Ann started her career at Primark as a menswear buyer, before moving into a new role within the brand and store development team, focussing on beauty. A kind-hearted person, she finds inspiration in the female role models around her, from family, to colleagues and influencers. What are your favourite quotes? There are two. One is my mum and dad’s favourite, ‘Remember the people on the way up, because you will meet them on the way back down’. The second one is, ‘The nice guy doesn’t always finish last.’ At various points in my career I have been told I am ‘too nice’ for the world of fashion. So, I learnt to take on board feedback to adapt, evolve, and remain driven. What gives you a great sense of achievement? I get a sense of achievement when my team, and Primark as a whole, are being successful and achieving. Their growth, progression, development and success, is my success. In my current role I’m responsible for all product marketing on beauty, so when we deliver stand-out results, it gives me a huge sense of achievement. If you could emulate any woman’s style, whose would it be? There are six key women, who were either born with a sense of style or developed one. They would be Laura Hutton, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Princess Diana, Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and Olivia Palermo. For me they represent that you should stay true to your style DNA but still learn, experiment and evolve.
Alexis Velazquez - Store Manager, Freehold US
Alexis enjoys nurturing the talent around her, seeing the potential of her peers, as well as herself. She believes resilience, adaptability and good communication are the keys to success at Primark, and if you’re self-motivated and passionate you will go far. What motivates you? What motivates me most is seeing my team grow. I have a passion for learning and development and I am an advocate for internal growth. I'm a strong believer that the only way to advance your own career is to advance the careers of those around you. Ultimately, your team is a direct reflection of your capabilities as a leader. One thing I really like about myself is … My team often tells me that they appreciate my transparency. I like to think that it's a quality that has allowed me to get as far as I have in my career. I have very high standards, and I ensure that I set clear expectations with my team. All the while promoting a culture of positivity and fun! If you’ve had a bad day, what’s your perfect pick me up? My perfect pick me up is time spent with my close friends. Similar to my store, in my personal life I have worked very hard to surround myself with positive, like-minded people. My friends are my world, and I consider myself very fortunate to have them in my life when I need company, advice or a good laugh.
Belen Peralba - Fashion Communications Assistant, Press Office Spain
Working in the Madrid press office, next to our impressive Gran Via store, life is bound to be a lil’ hectic at times. But Belen has a dazzling energy towards her outlook on life, staying motivated due to the love she has for her family and career, while continuously staying true to herself and her happiness. She believes nothing is impossible, and it’s never too late. What do you wear when you want to feel your best? Red lipstick. What’s your life motto? BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. If you had a daughter, what’s the most important piece of advice you’d impart? I have three sons and the advice would be the same as if I had a daughter: Whatever you do, BE HAPPY.