Could you be the next chair of Aspire?

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Christine Edge shares an exciting opportunity to get involved in Aspire in 2020.

Louise and I have been co-chairing Aspire (our colleague network representing women) since April 2018 and have recently spent time with the rest of the colleague networks and the central Inclusion team to build our plans for 2020. After lots of thought, we feel the time is right to pass on this opportunity to new Co-chairs in 2020. We’ve loved every minute and we’re so proud to see how Aspire has grown during this time.

With the work we have done, it’s really important that we have diversity in our new Co- chairs, so it would be great if we had both a male and a female to help take us forward.  The roles are leadership roles, so Chairs are expected to demonstrate the leadership behaviours, particularly around collaboration.

You don’t need to have previous experience, but we do need you to be forward thinking, strategic in your approach and collaborative – working alongside other colleague networks to maximise impact.  You also need to be able to balance your time between your day job, and running and chairing the network.

It’s a great opportunity for any colleague who cares passionately about women at Co-op. The role can be shaped by you, but as a general overview; you’ll lead the steering group, work together with other colleague networks, and manage relationships with various stakeholders around the business to ensure Aspire are aligned on the right priorities.

If you’re interested in the position or if you would like to discuss, please email with an expression of interest.

Christine Edge
Modern Workplace Programme Manager

Why Black History month is important

During Black History Month, the inevitable question arises… “Do we still need Black History Month?”

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In October we celebrate Black History Month and the inevitable question arises… “Do we still need Black History Month?”

My answer is always an emphatic “yes!” Black History Month (BHM) is a key opportunity to shine a spotlight on the often hidden achievements of people of African descent throughout the diaspora. In an ideal world, these accolades would be celebrated year-round, but as that’s not yet the case, BHM is very much needed. 

Many of you will know stories of African-American heroes. This BHM, Rise is bringing the focus closer to home — highlighting Black-British pioneers who have enhanced the fabric of British society through their contributions to science, economics, entertainment, culture, politics and beyond. We have selected 31 individuals to celebrate throughout the month, whose stories range from the 1700s to today. 

Most of these stories were new to me, it would be great to hear how many you’d heard of!

We will also be hosting a number of events:

Keep an eye on the blog and Co-op colleagues can stay up to date on our Yammer group for more details.

Annette Joseph
Digital Delivery Manager and Rise Chair


Rise Network Commons visit and Ethnicity Pay Gap reporting

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Co-op Rise Network’s Atif and Eram attended an event at the House of Commons, hosted by Dawn Butler, All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG)

In June, Co-op Rise Network’s Atif and Eram attended an event at Portcullis House at the House of Commons. The event was hosted by Dawn Butler MP who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Governance and Inclusive Leadership (GAIL).

The purpose of GAIL is to improve the working lives of BAME employees and raise the issue of inclusive leadership and governance in all areas of society with the key aim of giving people from visible minorities fair opportunities to progress to positions of power and influence throughout the UK.

It was a fantastic event attended by various businesses including Network Rail, Bank of England, and the NHS, all at different stage in their ethnicity and diversity journey. 

At Co-op we began this journey last year with the creation of our Rise Network, the first step towards improving our ethnic maturity as a business. We were able to use Commons event to gather best practices and ideas used by other organisations and we will look to collaborate with our HR team to work out which ideas and practices would work for us at Co-op. 

An example of this would be urging colleagues to input their ethnicity data on their workplace’s HR system. I would recommend all colleagues fill in this information as it gives the business a better understanding of the composition of people working at Co-op and the ability to monitor the progression of colleagues from different backgrounds as well as understand potential ethnicity pay gaps and provide a benchmark to compare to other businesses. 

One of the things Dawn Butler is championing is mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting across businesses, similar to the mandatory gender pay gap reporting we have today. A survey was conducted in October 2018 by APPG GAIL to better understand whether employers and individuals felt Ethnicity Pay Gap Reporting would create positive progress. The most common responses amongst 142 respondents were:

  • Opportunity to look at intersectionality – gender and race, and identify further diversity and intersectionality disparities
  • Encourages companies to begin to collect data which is essential to help highlight gaps and work to close them
  • Giving boards a buy-in to create real change across the organisation.

We think this is an important part of the progress on the diversity journey because in order to address the potential issues, we need to understand the size of issues first. Feel free to make your suggestions by commenting on this post or by emailing us on


Eram Akram and Atif Hussain
FOS analyst and Business Intelligence Analyst

I’ve realised how important it is to have people I can ask for help

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In her second blog, Emma talks about caring for her mum after her dad’s death.

My dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer last year. When he passed away in January this year, reality finally hit me. Despite knowing the cancer was going to kill him, we didn’t expect him to go so soon. Thankfully, his death was peaceful and he was spared the horrific pain we’d seen others go through.

But the suddenness of his death meant nothing practical had been sorted out. Dad was the primary carer for my mum, who has supra nuclear palsy. There was so much he did for her that he didn’t have time to share and, as an only child, it all fell to me when he was gone.

Unexpected events

Although my mum had been poorly for a number of years, we only found out in November what was really going on. Her diagnosis gave me yet another research job, which soon made it clear that she was going to deteriorate rapidly too.

My mum entered hospital a week after my dad passed away. Part of her disease means she can’t think broadly – unless she’s asked a specific question, she can’t tell you anything hurts or is wrong. One morning, while I was planning my dad’s funeral, I found her on the floor. I rang an ambulance which took her to hospital, where we found out she had sepsis. She’d ignored a water infection which had spread up into her bladder, kidneys and lung. 24 hours later and she’d have been dead – always a useful thing to hear from a paramedic when you’re already terrified!

Sharing the load

I thought I was the only one going through what felt like hell, completely making it up as I went along. But that’s where PACT came in. Nobody’s experiences are the same, but there are similarities – like the complexities of caring – that bring us together and form the basis of a strong support network. We’re all there for each other, whether it’s just a silly picture, a hug or some treats when we’re having a hard day.

The past eight months have been tough to put it lightly. I’ve lost my dad and brought my mum back from the brink of death, while running two households and darting between both to care for our family pets. I’ve been trying to register for probate and navigating the wonders of the social care system, without having any idea what I’m doing. Working full time alongside all that would take its toll on anyone’s mental health, and it’s stretched me in a way I never thought possible.

A positive view

That stretch has taught me a huge amount about what you can do when you put your mind to it. I’ve realised how important it is to have people I can ask for help. I’ve learnt how important it is to give myself a bit of a break from time to time, and hold onto the happy things in life. Ultimately I’ve learnt that it’s all about perspective; I’ve got friends I know will be there for me for years to come, and that makes the future much brighter than it seemed a few months ago.

If you’ve got caring responsibilities, might have them in the future or are managing someone with caring responsibilities come and get in touch with us at PACT. Although our experiences are all different we know what it’s like and are always here to support.

Emma Ainsworth
Lean Operations Manager


If you want to get involved, find PACT on Yammer or email

It’s never easy when things in your life change, but talking about it really helps

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As part of Carer’s Week, Emma Ainsworth shares the first of two blogs about navigating life while supporting her parents.

At 69 years young, my dad was spending his retirement skiing, pottering round the garden and spoiling our pet cats rotten. I’d never even known him to have a headache, let alone anything serious. To me he was invincible, the anchor in my life that would always be there whenever I needed him.

This time last year my view of the world completely changed. After having a cough and a bit of a sore chest for a few weeks, my dad was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and I radically came to the realisation that he was no longer invincible. The cancer had spread to many of his other organs and left him with only a year to live. We were completely astounded. It simply didn’t make sense to me that he could be poorly, let alone terminally ill.

My response

I put on a brave face and spent endless hours researching treatments. I put all my energy into finding answers, but the only options available were my dad’s idea of hell. He’d lose his independence and be bed-bound, trapped in a room and unable to be around people.
There was no way he’d agree to that and, after more days of frenzied research, my dad made the tough decision to forego chemotherapy. An eternal optimist, he became determined to continue living his life, spending all of his time enjoying his favourite things. Although it was an incredibly difficult decision, the days that followed became eerily calm as we all realised our time together was running out and we needed to make the most of it.

Until then, I’d been focusing mostly on my career. But suddenly work wasn’t my top priority and the life I knew disappeared pretty much before my eyes. The next six months became a frantic balancing act of keeping on top of everything but never getting caught up in the detail. I couldn’t give anything my full attention and my usual high standards disappeared. Things would get done, but I wasn’t going to bully myself if they weren’t perfect. There simply wasn’t time for that.

Meeting PACT

I spent my days constantly reprioritising and asking for support from my friends and colleagues. It was then that I started going to PACT lunches, and they were an amazing anchor for me. Despite everything being completely up in the air in the rest of my life, I’d found a place where people really understood, because they were going through similar things too. We talked about anything and everything, sometimes just ending up laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

My dad passed away on the 19 January 2019 and reality finally hit. The man who had always been there for me was gone and I had to juggle everything else without him there to support me or tell me what to do when I felt lost.

A helping hand

The following months have been incredibly hard but the amazing people I’ve met through PACT have kept me going, always there to support me, give me advice and share in my pain. It’s never easy when things in your life change, but talking about it really helps. It’s been invaluable having people around me who understand and I couldn’t have gotten through it without them.

If you’re going through something similar, or might have caring responsibilities to come in the future, come and talk to us. We’d love to see you and we’re always here with a biscuit and a brew!

Emma Ainsworth
Lean Operations Manager


If you want to get involved, find PACT on Yammer or email

Post-natal depression and me, how talking and support have helped

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In support of mental health week, Charlotte Bleasdale shares her experience of living with post-natal depression.

I was diagnosed with having post-natal depression 7 years ago, a few months after the birth of my son, Jack. I have two children, Jack and Holly.  I can still remember how ashamed I felt admitting I needed help. I was so low during a period when I should have been so happy. I felt like such a failure not being able to pull myself together and be the bubbly, happy person everyone knows me to be.

I kept my feelings to myself for a few months before asking my husband, Andrew for help.  I was in a place of trying to understand why I felt the way I did and not wanting to see anyone or leave the house.

Over the years, the way I feel and what I can only describe as periods of darkness I feel, haven’t changed. But the way I handle myself and cope with my feelings has got easier. I’ve found coming to work has been a huge help. There are days I just want to hide under my duvet and not face the world but coming in has helped me bring out the best in me and be the person I want to be again.  I find this hard to say, as I realise at home, with my loving and supportive family they are the ones who suffer the most from me not being the best mummy or wife.

Moving forward

Until recently, I hadn’t ever wanted to share how I feel with anyone at work. I felt I couldn’t. It would be career suicide. I was worried people would think I was some sort of crazy person.

But in January this year this changed. Over Christmas I’d been ill with the flu, things just spiralled and I didn’t want to come to work at all.  I met with Andy, my manager, cried and cried, and shared my feelings. Andy was brilliant, he listened, didn’t judge and was as supportive as ever. Nothing has changed and I haven’t been treated any differently which is what I was most worried about. My biggest fear is that people see me differently and then act in a different way towards me.

I cannot express the sense of relief I felt to share my feelings; it was like a huge weight had been lifted, like I could be open and free.

Support and encouragement

It is okay to not be okay. My friends, family and work family are all amazing and love me no matter what I am feeling or going through. I realise now everyone is there to support me and doesn’t judge me.

I wanted to share my story in the hope of inspiring others to reach out for help and support and to encourage managers to be as supportive as mine.

Charlotte Bleasdale
Programme Manager, Supplier Engagement and Change Integration


If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this story you may be interested in joining Aspire and our parent and careers network, PACT. You can email Aspire at

For more support, you can also contact:

PANDAS Helpline – for women experiencing pre and post-natal depression:

Co-op Employee Assistance Programme:

A Colourful Past: India’s ‘Festival of Colours’

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I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the Co-op’s Rise Network and tell you all about my favourite Hindu festival – Holi.

I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the Co-op’s Rise Network and tell you all about my favourite Hindu festival – Holi.

I’ve been working with the Co-op for over 2 years now initially working as a Commercial Analyst and now within the Co-op’s Data Management Team as a Business Analyst.

I was born and raised here in the UK with my roots going back to India. I grew up in Manchester with a traditional Hindu family. Me and my two sisters were all taught the basis of Hinduism. It’s so exciting to have been part of this Holi celebration every year since birth.

What is Holi? 

Every year, at the beginning of spring in India, is our openhearted Holi Festival – a.k.a an all-out dry powdered paint war!

Holi, also known as the Festival of Colors, has a long tradition rooted deeply in Hinduism. For many, it’s a day to forgive and create new beginnings. Like many other festivals in India, Holi signifies a victory of good over evil. We celebrate the joy of friendship, the coming of spring and equality for all.

While it is unknown exactly when Holi dates back to, the first mention is believed to have been in 4th century.  

What can you expect on Holi? 

Holi took place this year on 20 March. During the festival, our friends and family all gather together and play Holi outside and splash each other with bright powdered colours. The brighter the colour, the better.

The coloured powders that we use in Holi represents love, happiness, and the freedom we have to live our lives vibrantly. Holi is celebrated across the globe, including here in England. Back in 2016, I lived and worked in New York and I was proud to have joined a beautiful crowd playing Holi on 48th Street.

You’ll never have experienced anything like this…people chasing each other equipped with packets of dry powdered paint, splashing everyone from head to toe in colour whilst singing and dancing their hearts out to classical Bollywood or Bhangra music. It’s a free-for-all…and so much fun.

It’s a time where we all get to connect with our family and friends, meet others, laugh and forget our worries.

What I love the most about Holi is the fact that we all have a smile on our faces – enjoying the company of everyone around us. You feel proud to be part of a festival where you can see people happy on such a big scale. It’s amazing, wonderfully different, a congregation of music, food and colours. There is no better way to experience the Indian culture than to celebrate the Holi festival.

Kavita Mistry
Business Analyst