International Women’s Day – JW Filshill

Celebrating the influential women across convenience

Elaine Feeney, sales manager at JW Filshill (left) and Shirley Ruane, sales manager at JW Filshill (right).

This post was written in collaboration with JW Filshill.

Changing perceptions across the wholesale sector

FOR Shirley Ruane and Elaine Feeney, both recently promoted to sales manager at wholesaler JW Filshill, their experience working in a traditionally male-dominated environment has been positive.

Shirley has assumed responsibility for the west of Scotland and northern England territories, while Elaine has responsibility for the east and north of Scotland territories, including the islands.

“It’s been a very smooth transition so far,” says Shirley, who has worked for Filshill for eight years. “I think a lot of that has to do with the general culture at Filshill where you are asked about your career progression and where you see that going.

“In my case, I made it clear that I was ambitious to develop my career with the business and step up to a more challenging managerial role – the door is always open at Filshill and you are encouraged to speak up.”

Shirley, who also takes responsibility for Filshill’s Click & Collect operation in her new role, says it’s encouraging to see more women in senior roles at the wholesaler and she is not phased to be managing an all-male team.

“We’ve all been working together for a while now so it’s a natural progression,” she points out. “My team have been very receptive and I’m not planning any sweeping changes at the moment other than helping the team establish a slightly different structure designed to establish a more efficient process.”

While based out in the field most of the time, Ayrshire-based Shirley is usually in the office at least once a week, sometimes two. “Our new premises at Westway are more conducive to popping in as there is more space and better facilities and breakout areas for meetings and catching up on admin,” she explains.

“It’s a really welcoming atmosphere and I was actually part of the transition team – it was really exciting when we finally moved in.”

She adds: “My experiences at Filshill have been positive and while obviously there are times when you don’t agree with colleagues on certain issues, the culture is such that everyone can have their say, no one is shouted down.

“It’s also a very diverse and inclusive business and that has become much more evident over the last year or two. Yes, wholesale continues to be a male-dominated industry but it’s certainly making great inroads and Filshill is definitely up there with those leading the way to show that wholesale can be a great place to work for women in many different roles.”


For Elaine, who joined the business nearly four years ago, there’s no doubt that “Filshill is a great company to work for”. She’s relishing “getting stuck in” to her new role as sales manager although admits that planning will be key given the wide-ranging geography of her territories.

The transition for her, too, has been smooth with any changes made to her team’s operating processes for efficiency purposes and to align with the goals of Filshill. “Both Shirley and myself have managed people in previous roles so this is not new to us although working with your team as a peer is different from working with your team as their manager,” she points out.

Elaine thinks the new sales team structure sends out a strong and clear message that women can be successful in wholesale. “Here at Filshill, we have a lot of female buyersnow, we have female supervisors in the warehouse – it’s tremendous progress.

“There are definitely good career prospects for everyone, male and female – you are encouraged to step up.”

She also highlights the company’s work around diversity, equality and inclusion. “There’s a big focus on that and I think it’s made all of us think a bit differently and manage certain situations differently. Everyone has a duty to be more mindful of what they say and how they say it, particularly when you know that a certain individual tends to be more sensitive or isn’t always the most confident.”

Overall, Elaine adds, the culture at Filshill is one of openness. “It’s very friendly and there is as much support there as you need – and always someone to talk to about any issue. The door is always open.”

“While working in the field can, at times, be challenging, in my experience the vast majority of retailers are respectful and welcoming.”


Click here to read more about the inspiring and influential women working across the convenience retail sector.