These are the Most Powerful Women in the Retail Industry
Every September for the last 20 years, Fortune publishes its Most Powerful Women list. This year, the ranking is comprised of 26 CEOs controlling approximately $1.1 trillion in market capital, seven newcomers, one returnee and nine women working in the tech industry.
However, what really caught readers attention was the amount of women on the list who are leading retail companies and how high those women listed. Among the women were CVS Health Executive Vice President and President of CVS Pharmacy Helena Foulkes (No. 12), Apple SVP of Retail Angela Ahrendts (No. 13) and Home Depot’s EVP of U.S. Stores Ann Marie Campbell (No. 18). The magazine also highlighted a few retail newcomers to its list including Staples CEO Shira Goodman, Ulta Beauty CEO Mary Dillon and Mattel CEO Margo Georgiadis.
This isn’t necessarily surprising news. After all, women are the ones that are crucial to the retail industry, making up the majority of both its workforce and its customer base. But while women make up 60 per cent of the retail industry’s workforce, they only make up 10 per cent of its executive boards.
That is changing though, albeit at a glacial pace.
The retail industry isn’t different from any other industry in realizing the need for gender and racial diversity at the top levels of leadership. Having women in leadership positions creates a diverse balance that in turn offers new perspectives on challenges and opportunities. Without it, companies aren’t realizing the potential of the evolution that needs to take place.
But what is nice to see is that the women in retail appearing on Fortune’s list lead a diverse set of retailers. Foulkes for example has an extensive background in retail and healthcare marketing and strategy. In her role, Foulkes has the massive task of maintaining CVS’s retail sales growth as it transitions into becoming an all-around healthcare company. Ahrendts is spearheading Apple’s plans to redesign its retail stores. And Campbell — who began her career at The Home Depot as a cashier — is helping the retailer score market share, in part by appealing more to women, keeping stores and products up-to-date and smoothing the process of online transactions.
However, the fact that retailers still need more women leaders remains. When it comes down to it, it’s about the will to change and having those already in the top ranks recognizing and believing in the value of women. Females provide a different set of skills than that of their male counterparts and can bring a unique perspective to any organization. By nature, women are opportunity experts and when a woman finds an opportunity, she remains focused on that goal and doesn’t let her ego get in the way.
This shows that the retail industry has led the way in achieving non-executive gender diversity, but retail and the non-executive level is only the beginning. Females are taking over on screen and off. Yet with the retail and entertainment boxes checked, women will continue to shatter the glass ceiling in any industry due to their resilience and unwavering determination. That in itself should be enough for a seat at the table — yet it isn’t.
When everyone has a seat at the table, we are at our strongest, not just in the business sector but in every aspect of our communities. When everyone has a seat at the table, there is comfort and respect. Once everyone has a seat at the table, regardless of their gender and race, then we shall celebrate.
And we’re getting closer — which is important — but we’re not quite there yet. Until then, here’s to all the powerful girl bosses out there that are hustling day in and day out. We see you.
Featured Image: Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta by Rebecca Greenfield for Fortune
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Brooklyn is a Toronto-based journalist and if she isn’t writing, you can find her enjoying a nice glass of merlot. She is a lover of good books, Sunday brunches and running around the city with her girl gang. She’s your basic Blair Waldorf in a world of Jenny Humphrey’s. You can follow her on Twitter @BNeustaeter.