Looking for a change of career and to take on a new challenge, Sarah Atkins joined AkzoNobel as Marketing Lead in 2016. Within just nine months of working for the company, she had been promoted to the position of Marketing Director and joined the management team of Dulux Decorator Centre – a network of more than 240 decorating stores that have been providing brand paints, accessories and services to tradespeople and consumers for over 125 years.
Sarah further advanced her career with AkzoNobel last year when she took on the wider role of Commercial Director of Dulux Decorator Centre, overseeing commercial operations across the group’s category, marketing, supply chain and retail teams. She says she is proud to work for a business that “puts people first” and helps colleagues to develop their skills and progress their careers in the painting & decorating industry.
“Culture was so important for me for the next step in my career and I wanted to work for a business that values its people and supports their growth. AkzoNobel is a company that really cares about its colleagues, customers and the future of the industry.”
Among her many career highlights to date at AkzoNobel, Sarah says she is most proud of being a key leader for the Dulux Decorator Centre team in delivering its 2020 business strategy. This included the development and launch of Dulux Decorator Centre 360, a service dedicated to helping trade professionals meet their business goals. Sarah was also part of the team that launched the AkzoNobel True Colours community fund, which supported colleagues volunteering for different charities and good causes during the pandemic. Around 40,000 people have benefited from grants and donations delivered through the initiative.
“Becoming Commercial Director has been a great opportunity to progress my skills and bring together our teams into one cohesive team that has created efficiencies and better working practices and helped to deliver strong commercial results.
“Being a leader within our transformational plans was another fantastic experience that has helped deliver plenty of growth and higher profits for the company. And the way we pulled together as a business during Covid ensured that we could continue to support our colleagues and customers and enabled us to emerge as a stronger business.”
With women such as herself now making up half of AkzoNobel’s management team and growing numbers of female colleagues joining the business, Sarah says this diversity has helped bring many benefits across the entire company.
“Once we had that balance of men and women on the Management Team, it brought a different dimension that really helped the dynamic of managing the business because you have so many different perspectives. It’s great to see that in a world that used to be dominated by men.
“When I joined the Dulux Decorator Centre team, all the regional operations managers used to be men but now we have more women in these roles, and one of our divisional directors is a woman. It’sgreat to see that role model in the management team position. I’ve seen a change in this team, where having that mix of women takes that ‘boys’ club’ environment away from it and makes people think more inclusively.”
Dulux Decorator Centre are proactively working on plans to recruit more women to the business. This includes producing promotional videos featuring female colleagues from the Dulux Decorator Centre sales team. She says these showcase the advantages of working for a major painting & decorating business such as AkzoNobel, while also promoting these colleagues as industry role models to encourage greater representation of women in the trade.
With women currently making up just 20% of new joiners in the painting & decorating sector, Sarah says she is keen to see more females flourish and thrive within the industry.
“Women are still underrepresented and that’s a massive opportunity that’s being missed. Having more women working in painting & decorating will help to make the industry more successful because when you have that diversity, we know that businesses are more successful generally. We need to work harder to demonstrate how much of an inclusive and friendly environment this really is.
“For any woman thinking about starting a career in painting & decorating, my advice is simply just go for it – we need you!”
Sarah Atkins, Commercial Director, Dulux