Female leaders share career advice on IWD 2021

Female leaders at Unipart - Carol Burke, Karen Beardsley, Claire Walters, Kelly Warburton

Female leaders at Unipart share their career insights to mark International Women’s Day today (8 March). 

Introducing the contributions from his female leaders, Unipart Group Chairman and Chief Executive John Neill said: “Unipart is committed to doing business responsibly and that means creating a workplace where everyone can thrive. At the heart of the philosophy of The Unipart Way is the belief that everyone can make a positive impact on our success no matter their background or where they work in the business. 

“Everyone who joins Unipart has the ability to build a successful career with us, as our female leaders all demonstrate. We call this Gate to Great, and we provide a suite of personal development support to enable all our people to realise their full potential.

“In addition to Gate to Great, we have launched Digital Gate to Great to give our people the digital skills they need for their careers to flourish as we continue our journey through the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Carol Burke CBE, Managing Director, Unipart Manufacturing Group

Feale leader - Carol Burke
Carol Burke

Business is both tough and rewarding. You need to be yourself, know your own mind, and focus on making a positive contribution. 

Grab every experience you can, because every experience is a learning experience. The more you take on with a positive attitude, the more people will see you can handle things. Even if a project is a failure, you can reflect and learn from that and it will give you the confidence to deal with issues head on as they arise in future. 

Leadership is clarity of purpose and taking people along with you towards the goal. Whether you feel it comes naturally or not, you have to understand how you work best with the people around you to generate the outcome you want. Concentrate on other people’s strengths and remember that any team with a good leader will be better than the sum of the individuals.

Overall it’s about being true to yourself, and aiming high. You are much more likely to get there!

Karen Beardsley, Managing Director, Unipart Rail Operations

Female leader - Karen Beardsley
Karen Beardsley

If you’re at the start of your career be open and flexible to opportunities that may come your way. You may have ideas about what role you would like to do, but taking on a project or role outside of this may lead to something from which you can learn and help you find what you really want to do or don’t want to.

Listening is a very important skill. Ask for feedback in a constructive way and listen and reflect on what is said, and take actions to address any areas to develop. This will really help your development.

I would also recommend that you find a role model or someone you can learn from – they don’t have to be female leaders. My best support and advice on my career has come from men mainly, although that may be because there weren’t that many women in senior roles when I started. Before I joined Unipart, for my first manager role I was the only female in a team of 70 managers. I am glad this has changed and I think that Unipart offers good roles and opportunities across all parts of our organisation for women. 

Claire Walters, Chief Commercial Officer, Unipart Logistics

Female leader - Claire Walters
Claire Walters

The greatest lessons I have learned in my career are to always be brave, be passionate about all you do, and surround yourself with a brilliant team. 

People have taken chances on me and I have spent a lot of my career being out of my comfort zone, which can feel tough. Those times in a new role where I didn’t have all the answers are the times I’ve learned the most – both from what has gone well, and from what could have gone better. Over time I learned to focus less on what I didn’t know, and more on what I could bring and the great team I was working with. We are all on a lifelong development journey, so it’s really important we learn from everything we do.

We all have a natural leadership style, but I think it’s important to adapt it to your environment, role and team. Getting feedback from those around you is a gift, and I continue to learn from that all the time. Helping your team to understand you and what’s important to you is really helpful, so you can always get the best out of each other and know how to navigate the tough times together. The most important part of all of our roles is coaching and developing others, and creating the next generation of leaders. If I can ever help anyone with mentoring I’d be really happy to.

Kelly Warburton, Managing Director UK, Unipart Rail Commercial

Female leader - Kelly Warburton
Kelly Warburton

When I first started working in the rail industry there was a big difference between men and women and the roles they did. There was only one woman in a senior leadership role, and certainly no women in commercial roles. I look around now and this has changed, at Unipart we have many women in leadership roles and there’s no reason why being a woman could or should hold you back.

From my experience, never say no to anything, you learn through actively doing, not only will you grow your own capabilities it gives you the chance to grow your network and adds to your leadership toolkit.

Don’t become focused on a job title, focus on gaining new experiences, delivering results, gaining a track record, developing yourself and others around you, leadership is about getting the best out of yourself AND your team.

Having a mentor is great! It’s so important to have the ability to talk to and learn from others, and having someone outside of your direct line management helps with advice, support, and personal development. We are all continuously on a learning journey and communication is a key leadership skill.

Unipart has been brilliant at supporting me in growing my career including sponsoring my MBA. Professional development, a positive/can do attitude, and having a vision will help you go a long way.  

Also, enjoy yourself!