Creating a Culture for Women Executives

This week’s Convenience Matters podcast explores how companies can retain and promote females—and why that helps them connect with customers.

June 01, 2018

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – On this week’s episode of Convenience Matters, “Encouraging Women in Retail Leadership,” NACS hosts Jeff Lenard and Carolyn Schnare talk with Sarah Alter, president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women (NEW) about how convenience store companies can become places that welcome female leaders.

Recently, NEW released a report that sheds light on why female executives are leaving the convenience store channel. The study, which focused on U.S. brands and companies, used multiple sets of data as well as interviews with thousands of women. From the study, NEW created solutions for companies to build paths to success for women inside their organizations.

“If we want to truly and effectively serve our customer base, our leadership ranks need to represent the profile of who we serve as our customers,” Alter said. When these companies took a look at their leadership profile, it was primarily white males, while the customer base was ethnically diverse and 50% women. “The biggest challenge is retention,” Alter said, adding that retention of women drops off significantly when they reach the executive level.

“At the store level, we tend to have more women than men, and there’s an opportunity to grow that into leadership,” Lenard said. “If we’re losing them before we have a chance to get them into leadership … we’re losing a lot of connection with customers.”

“We know our consumer population is becoming increasingly diverse,” Alter explained. “So the leadership team and strategies driving all these great brands need to be representative of the customer base.”

The NEW study found four key elements that companies need to overcome in order to fundamentally reshape and rebuild their culture so that women can flourish in leadership positions: isolation, unconscious bias, pivot points and flexibility. “For isolation, women say that they feel like they don’t belong,” Alter said. Unconscious bias includes defaulting to descriptions of white males as leaders. Pivot points encompass milestones in a woman’s personal life or career, while flexibility means having an atmosphere that allows for some creativity in work/life balance.

NACS has renewed its focus on women’s leadership by launching a Women’s Executive Leadership Program at Yale University.  Endowed by Altria, the program is for executive-level women in the convenience industry.  Join us this November!

And each week, a new Convenience Matters episode is released. The weekly podcast can be downloaded on iTunes, Google Play Music and Stitcher and at Episodes have been downloaded by listeners more than 39,000 times in more than 95 countries.