10 May 2021

Female Leaders@TUI – Helen Caron

TUI has many successful female leaders in a wide range of areas. In our series “Female Leaders@TUI” we feature these colleagues and their inspiring thoughts on the subject of equality in interview form. This time we talked to Helen Caron, Group Purchasing Director and Trustee of the TUI Care Foundation.

Who is your role model as a female leader?

My first female boss when I left school had an immediate impact on the approach to my career. She demonstrated self-belief, a slightly eccentric personal brand and brave decision making. She showed me the value of building a diverse team and seeking to understand the value of opinions that conflict with your own, to help make the right decisions.

I have many role models. Everyday I’m inspired by the great women around me. My mum, sister, friends and colleagues. The women who remain true to themselves and don't feel they have to behave in a more masculine way to progress their career.

I also like to read a diverse range of opinions from different female leaders, most recently it’s been Michelle Obama, Arianna Huffington and Serena Williams so I get different perspectives and can continue to grow as a leader.

I also have male role models too. Through my career I’ve been lucky to have bosses who have supported me in my career, have been advocates for equality in the workplace and taught me a lot.

Each year we ask ourselves the same, important question: Where does our society stand in terms of female leadership? And what about TUI?

It’s really positive to see some great steps being taken to get more women into leadership. From the US appointing their first ever female Vice President to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala becoming the Director General at the World Trade Organisation and self made billionaire Whitney Wolf Herd floating Bumble on the stock market.

We are making progress, but there is still a long way to go. A recent review of FTSE 100 companies found that businesses had achieved targets to have 33 percent female representation across boards, which is really positive. However, the review also found that women still only make up 14% of executive directors across FTSE 100 companies. This demonstrates how far we still have to travel for a fairer playing field. We all need to play our part in supporting female leaders in navigating their careers.

Research shows that women don’t take as many risks, they are less likely to speak up in meetings and talk themselves down much more than men. As leaders across the business we need to be aware of these differences and ensure we are helping to provide a safe and nurturing environment for our female colleagues to thrive.

TUI has a team of excellent female leaders, with diverse experience and great potential for the future. Our integrated business model offers colleagues great chances to develop their careers. I’ve seen this myself, having moved from Distribution roles in the UK to leading an all-female leadership team in our smallest market Ireland, to turning around our UK cruise business before moving in to my current role in Group Purchasing working across all source markets. Whether you want to push yourself out of your existing area of expertise or grow in that area, TUI offers a framework to do this both locally and internationally – but you have to be prepared to take some risks!

There is a lot of talk about the specifics and qualities of female leadership. How are you leading?

Early in my career I made the mistake of thinking that to get ahead I needed to hide my emotional side. I confused assertiveness with aggression and hid my emotion. I quickly learnt to be myself, my emotion is what makes me a better leader, it’s not a weakness. It enables me to provide a different perspective in decision making.

I lead through collaboration, building the right team around me with the skills needed to be successful I build trust through open and honest communications, clearly outlining expectations on results, but providing flexibility for the team to execute the activity in line with their own styles. It’s about performance based on output, not the hours sat at a desk.

Leading a team based across different parts of the world, there are many cultural differences. I’ve had to adapt my own style, focusing on leading virtually and ensuring simple straightforward communications to help colleagues understand our strategy and goals.

Being a woman in business I’ve become incredibly resilient, I don’t give up, I’m open minded, driven, inclusive, supportive and encouraging.

What is your advice for young female professionals regarding growth in their careers?

Reflect on the learnings from all of your experiences and think about how you can apply this to the challenge you are facing now.

If you want to progress it’s important to not stay in the same role too long, to ensure you continue to develop and grow and experience different perspectives. Remember your career path also doesn’t have to be linear. Many of my biggest achievements and learning experiences have come when I’ve moved sideways into roles that have provided me with more autonomy and stretch, in a way I may not have had before. Always look for the next challenge and how you can apply the experiences you have had in your career to date to the challenge, we don’t always think we have the right skills for a role but there is always some experience that you have had before that you can apply to that challenge.

Most importantly believe in yourself. We all doubt ourselves, so each day remind yourself of what you’re great at and have the confidence to take risks.