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To celebrate International Women‘s Day on March 8, PJ recognises four professionals working in the industry blazing a trail for women across the jewellery sector through innovation, creativity and a fierce entrepreneurial spirit. 

The Pandora UK & Ireland managing director and one-time finalist of BBC’s The Apprentice has built up an enviable bank of knowledge and experience during her time in business as she now looks to take one of the world’s biggest jewellery brands to the next level.

Kate Walsh, Pandora UK & Ireland managing director, took an interesting path to the role. A finalist of BBC’s The Apprentice in 2009, Walsh has worked in senior management roles with companies like Starbucks and Marston’s, as well as working in TV and running her own consultancy company for a number of years.

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This string of short- and mid-term ventures ended when, in 2013, she decided to settle into something a bit more permanent.

Walsh says: “I wasn’t specifically looking for a role in the jewellery industry at that point in my career. I knew I was at the stage where I didn’t want to work on short-term projects any more. I wanted to join a business and become a permanent member of a team again, feel a part of something bigger and make a considered move to a company that I could see myself being with for the long-term.”

The decision of what company to join was a big one for Walsh. “The most important aspect for me was the person I was going to work for and the cultural fit of the company,” she says.

When Walsh met Pandora chairman Allan Leighton, about to take on the role of CEO at that time, she knew the chemistry was right.

She spent a year as Leighton’s executive assistant. “There is no doubt that he is one of the most inspirational leaders I have ever had the opportunity to work with,” Walsh says.

After that she began to climb the ladder at Pandora, eventually resulting in her appointment as UK & Ireland managing director in 2018.

After nearly eight years with the company, Walsh has built up a wealth of knowledge and advice that she is only too willing to share with people aspiring to do what she does.

She says that an ongoing lesson for her is the importance of speaking with both staff and customers. “I love to visit our stores,” she enthuses. “You always learn more on the front line than you can ever do sat behind your office desk.”

As for the best piece of advice she ever received, Walsh comes back at once: “Be authentic.” She explains: “In my earlier career, I had a much more ‘corporate’ approach than I have today, and found that I was a different person outside of work than I was in it.”

You always learn more on the front line than you could ever do sat behind your office desk.”

Once she accepted the idea that she could bring her naturally upbeat, extrovert persona to work, instead of putting on a more formal front, Walsh found that both she and her team reaped the rewards.

Turning to the topic of International Women’s Day, Walsh says: “In general, women in leadership are still the underrepresented gender. Therefore, as a senior female leader, I believe you have a responsibility to be a role model and take action yourself to do the right thing and be a part of a positive change.”

She cites education and training as an important tool, as well as being aware that women and men may have very different interview styles.

Finally, Walsh adds that she aims to create “a feeling of sisterhood and solidarity” among women in the workplace. In conclusion, she advises: “Be a cheerleader for the talented women around you, especially those who you know might not be confident enough to promote themselves.”