Sainsbury’s new customer service and colleague director, Gwyn Burr, is aiming for 20% of its store managers to be female by next year.

Burr, who officially takes up her new role next Monday, told Retail Week: “We’ve got huge talent in Sainsbury’s and I want to make sure we are giving everyone the chance to reach their full potential. We are already a fantastic employer for women but, with flexible working hours and a variety of roles, I want to champion them and encourage them to try different roles.”

At present, 16% of store managers at the grocer are female.

Burr, who as Sainsbury’s customer director previously had responsibility for marketing, continues to look after the customer but has also taken on responsibility for human resources, corporate communications and sponsorship schemes, such as the grocer’s sponsorship of the Paralympic Games.

HR director Imelda Walsh, who stepped down earlier this year to pursue other opportunities, will not be replaced.

Burr said she had been “out in the stores over the past week asking every store manager what they want from the HR function” and will consider their responses before implementing any major changes.

She said her role is “hybrid” but that “as colleagues and customers are at the heart of everything we do, it makes sense to put them together”. She added: “It gives a different perspective to look at the customer through colleagues’ eyes.”

Burr said the Paralympic Games sponsorship will see the grocer linking local stores with each of the 400 athletes taking part. She also said the grocer would aim to raise awareness of the lesser known sports, such as goalball, so “the population can get to know the sports and get behind our athletes”.

She said she expected the sponsorship would have a “halo effect” on the brand and boost sales in the run-up to, and during the games.

The marketing function has switched to Mike Coupe as part of a board shuffle in June. Coupe, who adds marketing to his current responsibilities of trading, IT and online, is currently recruiting a marketing director.