Small travel retailers can achieve just as much as corporates to promote women in the workplace by having the right attitude and culture, according to Tesco senior executive Jill Easterbrook.

Easterbrook, managing director of developing business for high street supermarket chain Tesco, said: “It’s as hard for Tesco as it is for anybody. Whether you are in a big or small business it’s about having a supportive culture.”

Speaking at the Women 1st Conference 2013, she admitted the pressure on retailers in today’s marketplace made it difficult to offer options such as remote or flexible working. “The problem with retail is that it’s now a 24/7 business, but I think a massive amount can be achieved with the right attitude and culture. It’s more about that than offering organised programmes [to promote women].”

Businesses also have to want to make a difference, she said. ”It doesn’t work paying lip service. And you will only get innovation through diversity (in your business).”

Since 2007 Tesco has almost doubled its number of female directors which now include three women on its PLC board and three women on its executive committee. The supermarket giant has a ‘women in leadership’ programme to develop female talent within the business.

As a stores director at Tesco, Easterbrook encouraged staff to have a life outside work and “be themselves” at work to improve the success of the business.

“We need to create a business culture that provides for people to feel confident to be themselves at work. If you have a culture where people can succeed as well as have time to be a good parent, friend or member of the community everyone benefits, including the business.”

It is just as important that women themselves have the right attitude and feel confident at work, she added. “The more content you are at work the more successful you are. Often you realise that the only person stopping you from doing things is yourself.”