Inspiring inclusion – Macfarlane’s female leaders on IWD2024

Recent posts

It’s International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #InspireInclusion.

To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, we’re breaking away from our usual packaging content to speak to leaders around our business about inspiring inclusion.

Aleen Gulvanessian

Aleen Gulvanessian, Chair of Macfarlane Group

Aleen is Macfarlane Group’s current chair, having historically served as one of the Group’s non-executive directors. Aleen has also practiced law for over 40 years, working as a corporate lawyer and partner at Eversheds Sutherland.

What would your advice be for women looking to overcome barriers in business?

Firstly, barriers are there to be broken. Secondly, I think no one should assume there are barriers. Even if there have been barriers in the past, my view is that they no longer exist in the way they used to as the world is a very different place for women now. Women have more opportunities than ever at the moment and should “seize the day” while it lasts and just demonstrate how good they are! If they do that there should be no barriers.

How can businesses inspire inclusion and advancement of women?

Businesses can help to build the confidence of women. I think some people do suffer from “imposter syndrome” and if they’re in a minority, they may need more support. I’m going to generalise (but am also speaking personally) when I say many women tend to be modest and don’t like singing their own praises. We need encouragement in this area and to make our own ambitions and aspirations known to our line managers.

Can you tell us a story about a person that has inspired inclusion in your life or career?

I think I was lucky because, whilst I worked in a very male dominated area as a corporate lawyer and was the first female corporate partner in my firm, the men I worked with and for didn’t treat me differently and were entirely inclusive. They treated me on my merits and that’s all anyone can ask for. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a woman in my area of work that I could look up to for inspiration, but my male bosses were great at being inclusive – at a time when it wasn’t even fashionable to be inclusive – and they promoted people on merits.

Suzanne Double

Suzanne Double – Group Regional Director (South East) for Macfarlane Packaging

Having worked in packaging and logistics for almost 30 years, Suzanne originally joined the business as a commercial manager and has progressed through to our leadership team. Suzanne is now one of Macfarlane’s Group Regional Directors.

How do you think Macfarlane Packaging inspires inclusion for women?

This business doesn’t differentiate between women and men in any way. Women are equals and it’s clear that if an individual is talented and has the skills we need, we support the recruitment, retention and development of that talent regardless of gender. That in itself is inspiring.

We mentor well, provide access for people to find the right path for them again based on their talent. We have a key number of women in leadership roles, which does and will inspire future leaders in our business. We have also created a very safe and respectful workplace.

What would your advice be for women looking to overcome barriers in business?

  • To never give up, always look for support
  • Use the resources around you – tap into all training and mentorship available
  • Build relationships and networks to support
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Don’t be afraid to be bold and be heard
Ruth Cook

Ruth Cook – Managing Director, GWP Group, part of Macfarlane Group’s manufacturing division

Ruth is one of the founding directors of GWP Group, having worked for the company since its inception as Great Western Packaging in August 1990.

How do you think Macfarlane Packaging inspires inclusion for women?

Macfarlane is very progressive in terms of inclusion for women. From the Board – with Aleen as Chair – through key personnel and all staff, there is a strong female presence. Being inclusive is clearly a key objective within the business, and this is visible – it has not just been talked about but is apparent in day-to-day behaviours.

Why do we need more women in the packaging industry?

I have been in the packaging industry for more than 30 years, and the female presence has changed enormously in this time. As little as 10 years ago, if I attended an industry event, I would be lucky to see more than one or two other females there. This has now changed to approximately twenty per cent of females in attendance. It’s an improvement but still way short of a 50/50 approach.

There are huge opportunities for women to positively influence the packaging industry, and I believe the industry recognises this and is trying to address the imbalance. There is an excellent opportunity for any female wanting to make a difference.

What is important when recruiting, retaining and developing female talent in business?

It’s vital to show that the business offers career opportunities and progression, and clearly demonstrate that these opportunities are open to both genders. Whilst it should not be assumed that females need more flexibility in the workplace, we live in a world where this is, in many instances, still the case. However, a business that provides flexibility usually sees the rewards of strong loyalty and retention of staff moving forward. 

Laurel Granville

Laurel Granville, Marketing Director for Macfarlane Group

Laurel is Macfarlane’s Marketing Director. She has over 20 years’ experience in marketing and branding leadership, having worked many of those in the packaging industry.

How do you think Macfarlane Packaging inspires inclusion for women?

I believe Macfarlane Packaging has created an environment where everyone can feel confident in their abilities and feel valued. Macfarlane has a good representation of women across leadership roles, including our board, which is 33% female. For me, this sets an example that women can have the same opportunities as men to progress in leadership roles in our business.

Can you tell us a story about a person that has inspired inclusion in in your life or career?

I have been fortunate to have had support and encouragement from both male and female leaders throughout my career and have not personally experienced gender as a barrier. However, my views may have been shaped by working in organisations where I could see women in leadership roles. These examples of strong, positive women leaders, particularly in the early years of my career, have opened my mind to career possibilities and a belief that anything is possible with perseverance.

What would your advice be for women looking to overcome barriers in business?

My advice to women looking to overcome barriers would be to continue to believe in yourself and ignore any perceived barriers that you believe exist. Consistently demonstrate your skills and abilities, forge relationships with leaders and mentors, male or female, and be relentless about achieving your goals.

About Macfarlane and Inclusivity

Macfarlane Packaging is a committed equal opportunities employer.

  • We have a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy that forms part of our Environmental, Social and Governance agenda. This includes the continual rollout of DEI training, inclusive policies, colleague feedback forums and targeted recruitment.
  • Macfarlane offers a wide range of careers advancement opportunities, as well as flexible and hybrid working opportunities to ensure we’re fostering a progressive and inclusive environment.

If you’re interested in a career in packaging, check out our current vacancies.