While the overall retail workforce is split between women and men, women are vastly under-represented in leadership positions, according to research shared at the FMI Connect session “Leveraging Women's Leadership to Unlock the Potential of Your Workforce.”
“Women tend to disappear in leadership roles on their way to the top,” said Joan Toth, president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women.
The retail workforce is composed of 48% women, yet under 2% of CEOs are women and only about 18% of corporate officers are, Toth said, citing Catalyst data published in Network of Executive Women’s recent annual report.
The five major advancement barriers to women, she said, are institutional bias, corporate culture, lack of sponsorship, work/life conflict and the “motherhood penalty.”
Kaitlin Wolfe, director of operations at Walmart’s Illinois division, advised managers to be flexible with work hours.
“It’s so important for leaders [to remember]— whether you have children or you don’t have children — is that it doesn’t take an exact amount of hours typically to get your job done,” Wolfe said.
“And it’s so important to very understanding and empathetic when your associates or your team members have things going on with family,” she said, giving the example of going to a soccer game at 4 p.m.
Another panelist, Trish Lukasik, SVP of PepsiCo Sales, warned about unconscious gender bias when dealing with career planning.
“I’ve been in many conversations where someone will say, ‘Oh, she just got married, so she probably wouldn’t want a job or she wouldn’t want to travel that much.’ And I always stop the person and say would you have ever told me about that about a newlywed man?”
“No, in fact you probably have told me that, ‘Oh, he needs to be a bread winner now. He’s got a family or he’s beginning a family, let’s give him more responsibilities, or let’s ask him to take on this greater challenge.'”
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