The Network of Executive Women has launched a major initiative to accelerate the participation of women in leadership roles, a program outlined at the FMI Midwinter Executive Conference in Miami Beach.
The 14-year-old NEW organization has grown rapidly as an advocacy group for women's leadership in the retail and consumer goods space, but hasn't moved the needle as much as hoped, said Joan Toth, president and CEO.
"We've sent these empowered and inspired women back to companies that have not changed," she said. "Women make up half the retail industry's workforce but less than 1 in 5 corporate officers and 1 in 20 CEOs."
The new direction, created after extensive focus groups and other research, focuses on changing this industry's workplace to adapt to quickly shifting U.S. trends. It even comes with a new slogan: "It's Time."
One new insight is that Milliennials overall share the same workplace priorities as women, including work-life balance, flexible work environment and the need to make a difference, Toth said.
"When you create a workplace that attracts and retains women, you create a workplace that attracts and retains Millennials too."
Women also have an overpowering impact on purchases: they control 70 percent of household spending and take 63 percent of all trips to the grocery store, Toth said. "But 59 percent of women say food marketers like you do not understand them," she added. "Consider the competitive advantage that's possible when our leadership is as diverse as our customer base."
NEW is backing up its efforts with support programs, including NEW Executive Institute, a 12-month education course for women; a webinar series; reports and surveys, and a "Career Accelerator" -- assessments and workshops designed to benchmark and advance performance of high potential women.
Amy Hahn, a NEW board member and SVP, marketing, Ahold USA, said women's leadership can help to deliver on company priorities, which in the case of Ahold includes being a better place to shop.
"NEW is essential to our efforts to develop women leaders," she said.
Hahn urged the industry and its companies to step up their support for NEW's efforts, including participating in NEW events and using the organization's resources.
"Women's leadership is not a women's issue, it's a business issue," she said.
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Lisa Walsh, NEW Marketing chair and senior vice president, PepsiCo Sales, PepsiCo, said NEW's priorities will include changing corporate cultures, creating more flexible career paths, empowering female talent, engaging men in the process, engaging company leaders, and enacting change that can be measured. Moreover, efforts need to recognize the challenges of multicultural women, which include a big wage gap with other women, she said.
Walsh said the NEW movement is being launched because "the fight for talent is real. The best and the brightest will build their careers elsewhere if we don't succeed."
NEW's presentation at Midwinter was moderated by Kevin Coupe, founder and Content Guy, Morning News Beat.
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