This month’s Member Spotlight

Sue Knowles

April 2017

Can you tell us a bit about your background and your role? 
I am 57 married with two daughters and two grandchildren. I joined Costco in 1993 from Booker Cash & Carry so have been in the wholesale market for nearly 30 years and prior to that worked for Avon Cosmetics as a Senior Marketing Manager. I was part of the start-up team for Costco in the UK and am the only Female Director within the UK executive team. International Chairperson for Costco Journeys networking business association for female management within Costco — UK, Spain, Australia, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

I have responsibility for all Marketing, Human Resources and Risk Management within the UK. Costco employs 6300 in the UK and 205,000 worldwide.

Why is diversity important for you?
It is all about the right person for the job irrespective of their gender, race or age. This is a cornerstone of our recruitment policy within Costco and given our 98% promotion from within it ensures that we maintain a diverse workplace.

What is your perspective on LEAD and what advice would you have for us?
LEAD – This is a well-structured business organisation and is attracting real powerhouses from within the industry and it just happens that they are women. Having the privilege of chairing the UK it has been great to speak to many companies and listen to their experience and learn lessons from their policies. It also gives you assurance you are not alone and that the issues are the same throughout many companies. So don’t reinvent the wheel learn from your colleagues. We need to gain momentum and recognition within the UK and it may be appropriate to invite some business journalists to our meeting to gain some attraction within the media.

Tell us something innovative that you have done recently related to diversity?
I have started to speak to CEO and Managing Directors of our suppliers to share our experiences within Journeys and encourage them to join LEAD; this has never been done before but by sharing our numbers and policies I am gaining their buy in and cementing a partnership of sharing.

How important is diversity within your organisation?
It a fundamental focus within the company. It is a major part of the international managers conference held in Seattle every year and the company CEO Craig Jelinek considers it after increasing sales and profit the next most important focus of the company and that every executive needs to maintain this high on their agenda every day in every way.

Do you have metrics in place to measure diversity?
Every period we analyse overall diversity within the business and in particular females within management which currently stands at 32% of warehouse operational management staff are females. KPI – the right person for the job irrespective of gender, race or age.

What is your biggest achievement?
Personally sponsoring up to 4 employees every year whether to develop within their existing role or into a higher possible. In the last 12 months 3 of the 4 have been promoted to senior roles within the business.