To celebrate International Women’s Day, we spoke to Robynne Thompson. A proud mother of three and grandmother of eight, Robynne is a very busy woman. On the brink of celebrating her thirtieth year at Country Road, she has both seen and experienced much. Here, she tells the story of her journey.
As her children were completing or were nearing the end of their school years, Robynne decided to return to the workforce after a seventeen year hiatus. It was 1988. After enquiring with Country Road, she first began working in store before migrating to head office where she helped out in reception and did ad hoc work in the mailroom. She finally took position in the sample room, organising and keeping track of all the product samples (no mean feat!) and this is where she remains today.
“I just thought I needed something to stimulate the brain. I wanted to get out there and do something more,” says Robynne of her return to work. “Working in store was great because I could still do school runs, but I was so terrified of learning how to use the cash register, and then when I came to head office and had to learn computers, I think IT got a call from me once a day!”
Over the years Robynne has become a much loved figure on the Country Road scene and the sample room of which she takes helm at is often a bit of sanctuary away from the everyday office activities.
“I just love that I get to work with all the young people. I think they think of me as a mother figure sometimes, I hear all their grievances and joys! What is said in the sample room stays in the sample room,” she laughs. “It’s wonderful. And it’s been wonderful for my children, because when they were growing up I would come to the younger people here for advice, and they would reassure me that it was normal for young people to go out at midnight and come home at 8am, which was a huge learning curve for me!”
A lot has changed for women in the workforce over the years. Robynne states that she was lucky in that her children were older so she could work more flexible hours. She does note that while there are indeed still many stresses for women in the modern working world in regards to trying to strike balance, she is pleased to see many companies taking big steps to be more accommodating.
“I think women are excellent communicators – we’re just a delightful bunch really!” Robynne considers. “And I think the people who work for Country Road in particular have a passion; they’re artistic and they’re very driven, all of which makes them very interesting. I’m very lucky to be working with them all”
An emblem of strength and grace in the face of tragedy, Robynne was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2001. It was a terribly traumatic experience where she learnt to rely on the support of her family, friends and colleagues. “Everybody was so caring and so wonderful to me during that time” she says. “Some of the designers here made me the most beautiful turbans from the most divine fabrics when I was undergoing the chemotherapy,” she says.
“I think working here helps keep me young, it gives me another interest and there’s always something to talk about,” she concludes. “The excitement of the industry means I get to do things I would never dream of, such as this shoot. It’s such an iconic business and a wonderful business – I mean I’ve been here for 30 years so I have to have liked it, haven’t I?!”