Zoe Jordan, CEO

Studies show that women are significantly underrepresented in senior positions within the food sector. According to a report by McKinsey & Company, women make up 49% of employees at entry level, but only represent 23% of the C-suite execs.

But Ashbury is proud to be different – leading the way for change through the investment, implementation and introduction of policies, procedures, and a dedication to a truly positive working culture. As a result, 72% of Line Manager positions are occupied by women, 57% of the Senior Management team are female, and – truly valuing this expertise – the company boasts a gender pay gap that’s less than 1%. In a bid to showcase this top female talent this International Women’s Day, Ashbury – the product information people, has launched a series of interviews with key individuals within the leadership team.

But the sad fact remains that not all businesses across the industry have such a commitment to ensuring a fair and positive experience for women within the workplace.

CEO, Zoe Jordan, explained: “While things have changed within the industry (and are changing), generally speaking, I believe there’s a common issue that spans outside of the food industry, and the workplace altogether, in that women continue to carry the mental load of both life and work – particularly if the women are mothers.


“It’s hard to be both a mother and a working woman – even in this day and age. Nobody ever explicitly said to me: you can’t do this job and raise a family. But, in previous roles, it was certainly implied.”

Technical Controller, Nicola Chambers, added: “At a previous organisation I had a senior role, but when I fell pregnant with my eldest daughter, knowing I couldn’t give 100% to both, I had to step down. Unfortunately, back then, there was very limited support in place for parents. I requested flexible working to support me with juggling childcare and my career, but they didn’t even consider it – I was handed my P45 instead.

“While I absolutely adore being a mum – and wouldn’t change it for the world – I do sometimes wonder if I hadn’t had children (or at that particular time), where would I, or could I, have ended up.”

Recognising that the industry wasn’t well equipped for working mothers (or fathers), Ashbury committed itself to challenging the status quo and in doing things differently. Driven by James Post, Founder of Ashbury (and in more recent years, supported by Zoe), an inclusive, supportive and nurturing culture has been evolved and established.

“We’re proud to have a significant number of women in management and senior roles,” James said. “And it’s something that myself, and the wider team, have worked tirelessly to achieve over a number of years: creating a culture that appeals to the very best talent in the industry where they can thrive, progress, and bring their very best selves – without having to make personal sacrifice.

“Thanks to our part-time contracts and flexible working policies, our team can work around their commitments – whether that’s school runs, appointments, or caring for relatives. And we’ve also introduced enhanced maternity (and paternity) packages, and a dedicated menopause policy. Not only are these intended to be available for our team as/when needed, but also to encourage conversations to be had, inclusivity to be promoted, and stigmas to be reduced.”

Australian Regulatory Manager, Dr Janine Curll added: “I strongly believe that workplaces (regardless of sector) should offer genuine part-part positions and flexible hours – for both women and men. Not only would this ensure that working mothers aren’t excluded from progression opportunities that allow them to achieve mutually-beneficial goals, but can allow fathers to further contribute to family duties (potentially relieving pressures of women).

“I’m delighted that these incentives are available at Ashbury – but it’s something we should be seeing as standard across the industry.

“Personally, flexible working has ensured that I’ve been able to maintain a full-time position at Ashbury, while also being able to be a parent. In other companies, quite simply, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without reducing my hours on a permanent basis to fit within their traditional ‘working day’.”

Also driving this movement is Mex Ibrahim, Co-founder of Women in the Food Industry. She said: “It’s clear to all, that while it is laudable that a number of EDI initiatives are now in place across the sector that aim to support women in the workplace and ensure they’re not discriminated against when having children, companies need to do more than simply tick boxes around maternity leave and childcare.

“As Ashbury displays – a cultural shift is needed so that women aren’t made to feel guilty if they have to leave. Not just for school drop-offs or illnesses but for attending concerts, sports days and other bonding events that are vital to their children’s upbringing (and their own wellbeing too).

“More than anything, women with children need flexibility. We recently hosted an interview with Saskia Roskam, Co-founder of The Biskery in Leeds who predominantly employs young mothers. She discussed in depth about how no working mother is the same: many want to contribute financially to their families, some are single parents, and others work because it fulfils them outside of motherhood. But whatever their reasons, offering them what they need so they can be a great parent and a great employee is vital.

“This is a big cultural shift and it takes brave but enlightened companies to do this. And I applaud all those that are working towards this, and not just ticking boxes.”

But it’s not just exclusive to working mothers as Jade Collins, Technical Controller, shares: “These great initiatives including: part-time hours, flexibility, remote working, and the option to purchase up to five more days of annual leave, also provide opportunity to engage in things you enjoy and which encourage you to take care of yourself. Whether it’s to do something you love, having the flexibility to attend an appointment without needing to take a day off, or being at home for an important delivery.”

“Unfortunately, the way we work is not the norm industry-wide,” James continued.

“But by making pathways to progression for working mothers (and parents in general) more streamlined and accessible, ensures we can benefit from a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise – resources that are being dismissed or overlooked by other companies within the industry. While we know that not everyone can take the same approach that we have due to the nature of their business, there is much that can be (and absolutely should be) done.

“And that’s not to say we have it all figured out – the industry (and the working world in general) is constantly evolving, with new expectations and needs regularly brought to the forefront. But we are wholly dedicated to our people, as well as providing exceptionally great service to our clients, and pledge to review, analyse and refine our ways of working to always achieve the ultimate win for all.”

The interview series will be rolled out on Ashbury’s website and social media channels. Understanding the industry-wide skills and talent gaps, each profile delves into some of the most common obstacles each female leader has faced throughout their careers (and how they overcame them), as well as sharing key advice and inspiration for budding young professionals looking to embark in a career in the sector.

Launched in 2011, Ashbury is a trusted technical and regulatory consultancy dedicated to making global food compliance easy. The powerful team of regulatory experts and food technologists guide clients from a place of uncertainty to complete reassurance, helping them to understand, apply and comply with domestic and international regulations, and empowering them to help their customers make safe and informed choices.