IWD 2022: Women are GOOD at numbers #BreaktheBias

by | Mar 9, 2022

Pomelo jointly celebrates International Women’s Day 2022 by featuring 4 amazing female Pomelo People who will be sharing their inspiring stories and how they break the bias in their career journey. We want to take part in encouraging and motivating every woman who may be under-recognized, underrepresented, or needs advocates.

To all the women out there – remember that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Together, we can all #BreaktheBias!

In today’s post, we invite Frances Fountain, our Merchandise Planning Manager (Category Management) to share her personal and professional experience which will prove one of the biggest lies that women are bad at numbers wrong.

How did you start your career in merchandising?

I have always wanted to work in retail and wanted to be a buyer. But I realized very quickly that I’m not very trend-driven or fashionable. So I was looking at the roles that I could apply my skills for. And that’s how I ended up in merchandising.

Merchandising always has to rely on data and numbers, how does it fascinate you?

When I work with numbers and analyze performance, it’s always black and white. Numbers will show you the reasons for the bad performance and for the good performance. For example, if the trend says ‘floral’ isn’t well-received then it’s hard to know if it’s because of the size, print, color, length, or fabric. Whereas if the sales fall, we can’t know for sure whether it’s because we bought too many dresses or we didn’t discount enough. I can then look at the numbers and really pinpoint what happens. I can easily change my stock mix for the month to try and counteract. I’m one of those people who really like the clear, definite, black and white answers.

What was the biggest turning point in your career?

Moving to work in Thailand was a big challenge for me! I saw the opportunity at Pomelo and I knew I had to take it. When I told my friends and my family, they were like “Oh my god! Is it safe there? Are you going to be okay on your own?”. But I knew that it was a good opportunity for me. I was always inspired to move to Asia – to live on the other side of the world. I knew that I was going to make this work. I was just going to give it a go. 

So far I’ve had an amazing experience, going to wonderful places and making great new friends. It’s a shame that being a woman could have potentially held us back from doing things in our careers or prevented me from this experience.

I think, as a woman, we often hold back from opportunities because we’re scared. We don’t put ourselves out there and feel pressured that it’s not going to be a success. When women work in the roles that women don’t typically work in, there’s this added pressure to do a good job, that you have to fight, maybe on an uneven playing field. We’d think we can’t fail and maybe put the standard of failure even higher.

As a woman, have you ever faced any challenges or underestimation in your career?

Fortunately, I have never felt underestimated in the workplace. I’ve been lucky to work in an area that tends to have a higher proportion of females. In that respect, I’ve always had the opportunity to work with many strong women who are really good at their jobs, for example, my current lead is also a woman. I have always been able to be inspired by the women around me.

Though in my personal life I have received a few odd looks when I tell people that at 152 cm, I play rugby with the lads on the weekend!

What’s your current goal?

I’ve been very fortunate to work with strong female leads who have inspired me to know that I can move up in my career to whatever level I want. For me, that would be important as I can also empower both women and men who work underneath me to feel that they both have equal opportunities to progress in their careers as well.

What do you want to say to people who say that women are typically bad at numbers?

There’s a bias towards women that we’re bad at numbers. But I think everyone is good with numbers, they just don’t realize it! When you start to break it down, for example, from working out what money to leave as a tip in a restaurant to calculating how long you need to get from the office to the bar on a Friday night, you’re already using numbers. People think that numbers are the complicated and advanced formulas you learned at school but you are actually using numbers in everyday life. I think maybe women aren’t told this as much as men but I believe that anyone can be good at numbers. They just have to realize how much we use numbers all the time.

How does Pomelo foster an inclusive environment that supports women and you?

It’s nice that we have a high proportion of women in the office and there’s a good mix across all areas as well, for example, even in the Technology team, we’ve got strong female leads. I feel empowered because women are represented at every level within the business.

We’re always given a place to voice our opinions. I have never felt that I was being held back because of my gender. I know that there’s a strong People team that would be able to support me. We’re all supported. It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking to the owners of the company or somebody who works underneath, you can approach and speak to them in the same way. There’s no question for me on the gender bias in the office. We’re empowered that, no matter what role you are, what gender you are, what area you work, or what level you work, we’re given ground to speak and voice our opinions.

I think maybe women aren’t told this as much as men but I believe that anyone can be good at numbers. They just have to realize how much we use numbers all the time!

Frances Fountain, Merchandise Planning Manager (Category Management)

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