Inspirational Woman: Anna Hill | General Manager, WW UK

Anna HillAnna Hill is senior vice president and general manager of WW (formerly Weight Watchers) UK.

She began her career working with brands from Smirnoff to Cable & Wireless Worldwide before joining The Walt Disney Company as general manager for Disney Channels, then vice president and chief marketing officer (CMO) for Disney UK, Ireland and Nordics.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have a lot of positivity and energy.  My mum sometimes says I am a ‘Polly-Anna’ which is unfair, I am not naive, just hugely passionate. I am a mum, a wife, a daughter, sister, a great friend and hopefully an inspiring leader. I am a marketeer who has taken a leap into General Management, which I love.  Being across ‘everything’ and learning a lot everyday, and being able to have ‘impact’. At WW I am focused on transforming a very established business into a hugely relevant business that has greater reach and relevancy.  2/3 of the UK are overweight or obese and we need to help people get healthy.  We are all surrounded by take-aways; indulgent food; sedentary lifestyles with streaming services encouraging binge watching.  We know it can make us more susceptible to covid, heart disease, diabetes, cancer……I feel passionate about getting us all healthier, so we can live this life we have, to our very best.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I always knew I wanted to be in marketing – that was it.  Only when I left university – I sat down and wrote to 100’s of agencies to get into the advertising world – from there I went where opportunity took me.  I spent 20 years at Disney which I loved, but am delighted I made a move to a business that has greater purpose and I can have greater impact.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, lots; feeling like I could not always find the right platform to get my ideas across; often linked to confidence. I also have dealt with some people who I found overly aggressive, and one situation where someone did not want to see me progress, so it was uncomfortable at times. It all works itself out and I learnt resilience.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Becoming GM of a well-loved and increasingly necessary business  – WW. I also managed to get Robbie Williams into the office for a Q&A – it blew the team away. I was also chosen to be on a brilliant programme called the Marketing Academy Fellowship Programme (x20 CMO’s a year) and I learnt how to become a CEO whilst meeting 19 brilliant people that I still lean into now for help and guidance.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Being open to opportunity, being positive and being honest. 

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee? 

It is brilliant.  I have been mentored and do a lot of mentoring (around 6 people a year).  The support has helped me hugely and if in any way I can help others, is great.  Each time I learn something new – you learn about other businesses, how different people have different styles that you need to be sensitive to and how to reframe your experiences so they are more relevant to other people.

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If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

I think it might have been helped by covid – more flexible working. Women can’t do it all. I know I am a bit of a control freak and I want everything done now and I want it done well. Women are having it all, but we’re holding down jobs and are like super mums at home. It’s not sustainable. When I start work, I already know what we’re having for supper tonight. When I get home, I’ll be stressed about the breakfast bowls being on the table and the kids beds not being made. Women need to cut themselves some slack. We can’t do it all and we need more support, which in turn, will make us feel more confident.

WW have recently announced a raft of new menopause policies for both your members and employers – why is it so important that we talk about the menopause more? 

Because it affects everyone and has been something people have had to suffer in silence over. The effects can be mild and also dramatic and until we can talk about it more easily the mental anxiety can be extreme. At  WW, we want to play our part in trying to remove the stigma. We found that it’s a topic people don’t feel comfortable talking about. If we all start talking about menopause more openly and supporting women who are going through perimenopause and menopause, then we can start changing perception. At WW, we employ a lot of women and we recognise that we need to support them and have open conversations. I will often stop in the middle of a sentence in a meeting to say ‘Sorry, that’s my menopausal brain going on here.’ When my mum went through menopause, she didn’t talk about it, but now, we have a real opportunity to make it an open topic, plus we have access to information. We need to do this, not just for us, but for our daughters and sons too. 

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Be easier on myself. I have often beaten myself up for not being a good enough daughter, mother, friend, wife, at times. But to know that I am good, but that there are times where I am not all I want to be to everyone and that is ok…as long as over time I give myself the space to feel good about all of these relationships.It’s got to be all about confidence too. If you’ve got an idea, put it out there. If you feel passionately about something, whether it’s good or bad, say it. Be polite and respectful, but say it. Find your voice.  

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future? 

I always wanted to play sport for my country, but I just wasn’t good enough! So, I am taking up golf, and thinking that I am aiming for the senior tour, representing the UK. I have at least 30 years to get there (which at my current standard, I will need, but I’ll work hard on it!).

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