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I was truly delighted that Dame Kelly agreed to speak to us at our Women’s Network - she definitely inspired the team with her motivational presentation, which covered the highs and lows of her career and encouraged the group to “never stop striving to be better than you were before”.

Dame Kelly is now a retired middle distance athlete, having great success during her career in athletics, including winning double gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics.  She won numerous awards for her achievements; including BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year and was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2005.  Since retiring from athletics in 2005, Dame Kelly has since run a very successful mentoring and education programme for young athletes and led England to success by topping the medal table at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in her role as President of England. 

The highlights from Dame Kelly’s talk included her view that having just one person behind you telling you “you can do it” is enough to help you achieve anything. She really believes that everyone has a hidden gem and that in order to reach your full potential you need to have guides to support you along the way, but ultimately be a true believer in yourself. At M&S we place a lot of emphasis on personal development and enhancing opportunities. Just like Dame Kelly, we too recognise the importance of having the necessary support to do this and are therefore proud to run various mentoring and development programmes across our Business.  

Dame Kelly lived by the mantra, “what if I”, rather than “if only I”, making sure she felt like she had given life everything. Dame Kelly explained that she believed in fate and trusted that what was meant to be will be. She explained that she has taken the difficulties life has thrown at her, and turned these into positives.  

The part of Kelly’s talk that resonated the most with me personally was her view that however big or small your goal is, you need to have determination, motivation and inspiration to achieve it, but most importantly, self-belief. Dame Kelly was an inspirational role model as an athlete, and continues to be in her role running The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. The Trust supports athletes as they transition from sport and use their unique skills to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people through the trust’s mentoring programmes.  

In 2004 M&S set a clear goal to help disadvantaged people into work through our Marks & Start employability programme. We are extremely proud of this milestone, with Marks & Start having supported over 10,000 people in 10 years through training and work experience in our stores and offices. We are particularly proud of our youth employment programme, Make Your Mark, which supports disadvantaged young people to overcome barriers to get into work. We are exploring ways to work together with The Dame Kelly Holmes Trust to support more disadvantaged young people.  

I launched the first women’s network at M&S with the support of our Chairman Robert Swannell last year, to give my colleagues access to a range of female role models from both inside and outside the organisation. The main aim was to focus on the career challenges women face and create a forum for discussion to explore and address these. 

Related blogs:

M&S Inspiring Women Network with Katie Piper

Our differences make us stronger

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