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International Women's Day 2024 Q&A with...Kay Brunton

In the lead-up to International Women’s Day 2024, we’ve spoken to members of our senior leadership team about their career motivation, inspiration and advice for the next generation. Today we're hearing from Kay Brunton, Finance Director.

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IWD Kay Brunton

What’s your biggest career achievement?

Whilst working previously at Costa Coffee, I supported the finances for the Costa Foundation charity. After helping for a few years I was honoured to be asked to join the charity as a Trustee. The charity's mission is to provide safe and quality education and eradicate poverty in coffee growing communities. I looked after the finances for the charity, but also was given Ethiopia as my country of responsibility. One of my biggest achievements was being part of a key initiative to establish Girls’ Clubs. These are self-funding clubs which enable girls in communities with a history of early marriage, lack of education, unfair division of household chores and child-rearing responsibilities to be supported in their education, their lives, their health and their futures.

They’re not just for girls either. Boys are encouraged to attend so that they can learn about the issues girls face and find out how they can help and become a force for change in their community’s future.

I was privileged to visit Ethiopia several times to visit our in-country partners, meet the communities we were supporting, host donors and see the work taking place. Visiting these communities was an incredible experience, meeting the people benefitting from the facilities provided and seeing the changes taking place. I was given the honour of having a classroom named after me in one of the schools, a gesture that was a complete surprise and very humbling.  

What was your first job?

My first professional job was training as an auditor at PwC. Honestly, I hated the job and wanted to quit! But the company and my year group were brilliant and got me through my three years of training until I qualified and moved on to roles that I found more interesting. I’m glad I stuck with it, the accounting and personal development training PwC gave was invaluable and gave me a great start to my career, and is still invaluable now.

My first paid job was whilst I was at sixth form, working in a tuck shop in the local youth centre on my lunch breaks selling pot noodles and wham bars. I don’t think you ever forget your first payslip!

What is one piece of advice you’d give to younger women in business?

Make sure you have a seat at the table. It’s so easy to shy away and not have confidence, to feel like everyone else’s view is more important or worthwhile than yours. But everyone’s opinion is valuable and the only way others will believe in you is if you believe in yourself.

What drives / motivates you in your career?

Growth is a personal goal that has kept me wanting to learn, develop and push myself at every stage of my career. I enjoy learning whilst on the job and overcoming new challenges. I’m very competitive, mainly with myself, although occasionally with others. I want to be the best version of myself in all areas of my life, not only at work. The hardest part is getting that balance right - reaching your full potential in one area normally means sacrifice elsewhere. My aim is to strike the right balance across the different parts of my life as best as I can.

Is there a female leader that you particularly admire? Why?

There are many great female leaders - I’ve read books like “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg and “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, really impressive and strong female leaders. But on a more personal front, whilst working at Whitbread, the Investor Relations Director was a great role model for me. She was an expert in her field, respected by the company and by all the analysts in the city. We worked together on a Premier Inn Investor Day and she was so friendly, approachable and willing to coach and train me to ensure I learnt on the project. Knowing I was interested in the investor relations side of the business, she then pushed me further by not only inviting me to meetings with the investors and our CFO, but getting me to answer some of the analyst questions. She always had time for me, no matter how busy she was. I learnt a lot from her on the Investor Relations side of the business, but she was a great role model for me.


For more of our International Women's Day 2024 Q&As, click here.

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