They Advocate: We Progress (Part One)

Throughout the month of March, our Gender Equality Network have been celebrating Women’s History Month with other Partners (employees) through their campaign ‘They Advocate: We Progress’.

As part of these celebrations – which will continue through to the end of May – they brought together inspiring women from across the Partnership, who lead with equality in mind and asked them to share their own personal career journeys and progression stories. 

In this three part blog series, we’ll be sharing their stories with you in the hope that they can begin to inspire you on your own career path too. Once you’ve read through part one below, head over to parts two and three to hear from more of our inspiring Partners. 


Dame Sharon White  – Chairman, John Lewis Partnership

“Throughout my career journey, I have been a civil servant mostly at the UK Treasury and the Chief Executive of Ofcom, the UK media and telecoms regulator and I am presently Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership. My move from being a civil servant advising politicians to running my own organisation at Ofcom has been a particularly inspirational story that I would like to share in regards to progression. Alongside my own career story, I admire Michelle Obama for staying high when others went low. 

My advice is to do the job you love, not the job that you think you should do if these are not the same. You’ll be much more effective and this will be your springboard to promotion. There will be highs and lows in your career, but having strong positive work relationships will help you see through the lows.

Through navigating my own career, I’ve noticed that you often have more visibility from being a minority. Use that as a platform to do more good – encouraging others along the way. 

My piece of advice… do what you love.”

Sainika, Operations Data Development Manager & Partnership Gender Equality Network Lead

“I have always had varied interests, from baking, sewing, and knitting to karate, kickboxing, and problem-solving, making it challenging to narrow down my career path for University. Despite not seeing anyone to inspire me into a specific career, I completed my education, opting to “work it out as I went along.” I frequently felt like the odd one out going against the norm of a Sikh family by starting my first job in Retail, yet remained true to myself, agitating against those who didn’t believe in me. To this day, my parents are incredibly proud of my journey. Claiming to be a nerd, I chose to play with calculators when I was younger and excelled in Maths throughout my education. I continued seeking opportunities to problem-solve and use my maths skills in any job that I had, leading me to my current role in Data Development within the Development and Optimisation team. Initially, I admired data roles from afar, thinking they were unattainable due to my gender and lack of a degree. However, I discovered my path toward data during my career and began learning to code during the Pandemic. The joy I find in talking to a database is comical!


“I’m incredibly proud of my journey and encourage others to take risks and empower women in their careers.”


Throughout my journey, my Mother has been my unwavering support, facing her own career aspirations being snatched away by familial expectations. Inspired by her resilience, I strive to create opportunities for her to pursue her passions. She faces every challenge with such grace, patience and intelligence, I can only hope to be like her in the years to come. Another woman I greatly admire is Katherine Johnson, whose story of breaking down barriers at NASA is truly inspirational. Despite facing discrimination, her skills and determination led to historical achievements.

Facing challenges such as being the only woman or person of colour at the table, I persevered with the support of strong women and male allies. This journey led me to co-lead the Partnership’s Gender Equality Network, aiming to prevent others from facing similar struggles. Looking back, I’m incredibly proud of my journey and encourage others to take risks and empower women in their careers, knowing it won’t diminish their own success. My one piece of advice would be that there is something to be said about taking up space; take the leap into a new role, have a seat at the table and challenge yourself – chances are you’ll excel!”


Katherine, Director of Build to Rent

“Navigating and balancing growth, diversity and balance; a personal journey in real estate and the John Lewis Partnership. My career journey in the realm of Real Estate, has been a path marked by diversity, continuous growth, and the balancing act of professional ambition alongside family responsibilities. I Graduated  from Reading University with a focus on Estate/Land Management which laid the foundation for what has been a fulfilling and dynamic career. My journey began in small property consultants before making my way to larger organisations like BNP Paribas. However, it’s my time with the Partnership for the past 16 years that has truly shaped my professional identity. The allure of my role lies in its diversity and the perpetual opportunities for personal and career development. Driven by an innate curiosity and a desire for growth, I’ve embraced every opportunity for expansion, whether it meant representing the property directorate at JL Council or taking on non-executive roles to broaden my horizons.


“Despite moments of being the youngest but most senior person in the room, I’ve always been clear on what my strengths are and I bring to the table.”


The Partnership has not only supported but encouraged my endeavours outside the traditional career trajectory, enriching my experience and perspective. Yet, being a Senior Woman in an industry historically lacking in diversity has posed its challenges. Despite moments of being the youngest but most senior person in the room, I’ve always been clear on what my strengths are and I bring to the table.  Balancing the demands of a thriving career with a young family is also rewarding and hard work! With two young daughters, maintaining a solid support network, organisational skills, and prioritising my own well-being have been paramount. Some days are chaotic, but perspective and resilience keep me grounded.

Reflecting on my journey, my top tips for navigating work, life, and everything in between:

  1. Build Resilience and Relationships: Both resilience and strong relationships are essential in weathering the storms and celebrating successes.  
  2. Maintain a Positive Mindset: Approach challenges with optimism, always seeking the silver lining and opportunities for growth.
  3. Know Your Worth: Confidence in what you bring to the table transcends age or experience. Own your strengths and contributions.
  4. Embrace Growth: Continuously push yourself out of your comfort zone, embracing opportunities for personal and professional development.
  5. Letting Go: Recognise when to relinquish control, trusting in the process and those around you.
  6. Invest in People: Cultivate and nurture relationships, as they are the cornerstone of success in any endeavour.
  7. Prioritise Well-being: Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s a prerequisite for effectively caring for others and sustaining long-term success.”


Hattie, Head of Data Product & Platforms

“Having studied Spanish and Arabic at university, I decided that your regular 9-5 job wasn’t for me. I got a job with a drilling contractor, who helped me begin as a Drilling Engineer and I spent the next 10 years travelling the world, working on oil rigs. This enabled me to build up a good foundation of transferable skills and when I decided that I wanted to try something new, I applied for a Project Manager role at the John Lewis Partnership. It was a Fixed Term Role, and I was given projects in the Data function which I found absolutely fascinating. At that point I realised that I’d been working with data throughout my career, I think that’s the case for a lot of people; almost everyone works with data in some way. An opportunity came up for maternity leave to cover a Data Product Manager role and I’ve never looked back. 


“Just remember that you don’t need to tick all the boxes on a role profile!”


I’m now Head of Data Products and Platforms, it’s a role that I really enjoy, and that I feel like I’m constantly learning. I also really enjoy the fact that data and technology are quite closely linked, so the landscape it’s constantly evolving which makes it really exciting. 

There are a couple of women who I admire, one is Dame Stephanie ‘Steve’ Stanley, I was lucky enough to see her do a talk and meet her at a Women in Data event last year which was a real highlight for me. Another woman I admire is Beth Jean, the founder of ‘Plastic Freedom’. I really admire her drive to start her own company (and it’s rapidly growing!), I support the message she is spreading about looking after our planet and there is also a thread throughout all her content about nobody being perfect and that it’s ok to make mistakes. I think we can be overly harsh on ourselves when in reality we juggle a lot. 

My advise to others is to not be afraid to take risks, secondments are a safe way of trying something new. Also, just remember that you don’t need to tick all the boxes on a role profile!”


Hear from more of inspiring Partners in part two and three of our ‘They Advocate: We Progress’ blog series. Click here for part two. Click here for part three.



Find out more about careers in the John Lewis Partnership at





Back to all posts

Comments are closed.