CHICAGO — The Network of Executive Women, based here, is celebrating 10 years as an organization dedicated to advancing the careers of women and minorities at retail and CPG companies.
“I think the most important thing we've done is that we've gotten diversity and inclusion on the agenda at retail and CPG companies,” said Joan Toth, president and chief executive officer, NEW, in an interview with SN. “And particularly among retailers, which traditionally have not been as advanced with D-and-I [diversity and inclusion] awareness as the supplier companies.”
The organization started with a meeting in January 2001, at the Food Marketing Institute Midwinter Executive Conference, and was incorporated as a not-for-profit educational association in April of that year.
It expanded steadily, and in the five years since its fifth anniversary in 2006, NEW membership has grown from 1,900 to 3,300 people, one in 12 of whom are men. It also counts 72 sponsor companies.
“What I think we have done is shown that diversity and inclusion is not only nice to do and that it is a legal issue, but it is a good business opportunity,” said Toth. “The population is changing and our workforce and consumers are changing so rapidly, so we have to have a greater awareness of our multiculturalism and our gender differences in order to better serve those communities.”
One of the keys to NEW's success, according to Toth, has been its regional groups, which stage networking events throughout the year. The organization now has 17 such groups, including a new chapter in Toronto — its first in Canada — and it hopes to expand further internationally, Toth said.