Erin Brockovich, Retail Leaders Share Experiences At NEW Forum
More than 250 consumer goods and retail industry leaders focused on the legacies they hope to leave at the sixth annual Network of Executive Women (NEW) Executive Leaders Forum last week at the Terranea Resort outside Los Angeles.
Gisel Ruiz, EVP and COO of Walmart U.S., and Larree Renda, EVP of Safeway Inc., joined legal legend Erin Brockovich and more than a dozen industry leaders who shared their life and career experiences at the invitation-only event.
Ruiz spoke about the retailer’s efforts to create a career path for women and the lessons she learned as she rose through the company’s ranks. Key to Walmart’s progress, she said, is not philosophizing but taking action.
To better position themselves in the workplace, women should “reveal your whole self at work—consistency is the cousin of integrity,” Ruiz said. “That is being honest with who you are. Bring it all to work. Your ‘true north’ will never change.”
Ruiz advised the crowd to “lose the guilt,” adding, “We set such high expectations for ourselves that, when we don’t meet them, we fall prey to guilt.
“Don’t be afraid to ‘roar,’ she told the mostly female crowd. “Leverage your strengths, don’t change them. Be a woman. It is a gift. Women bring a different perspective to conversations and dialogue.”
Women lead differently, Renda says
Renda, EVP of Safeway Inc., characterized life’s obstacles as “opportunities to grow, learn, advance and make a difference.”
The first woman and youngest person to become a VP for Safeway Inc. and the company’s first female EVP, Renda urged NEW Executive Leaders Forum attendees to never give up on their dreams, no matter the obstacles.
Women lead with their brains and hearts, a different leadership style than a man’s, she said. Women are cooperative, supportive, nurturing and participative and women’s leadership instills pride, loyalty, high morale and peak performance.
She encouraged women to be assertive, speak up and self-promote.
“I’ve never seen anyone who’s been promoted because they did what was in their job description,” she said, adding that it’s often necessary to chart your own course.
Lessons from a legend
Brockovich’s legacy of overcoming obstacles, she said, started with embracing the belief in her own power.
“Don’t be afraid to be your own hero,” she said. “As a leader, stand on your own two feet. Make decisions for yourself.”
Women also need to take an assessment of themselves—not what they have, but who they are, she said.
“Look for better ways to run or start your business,” Brockovich said. “Be willing to adapt to new realities, and don’t fear the change. Once you reassess, you will find confidence to move forward to your success.”
The forum also featured an address by Blythe McGarvie, a Harvard Business School senior lecturer and former CFO of BIC, who spoke on facing fears with courage, and a briefing on the status of women in business by economist Janice Madden.
A panel discussion on how to advance women leaders was moderated by Nancy Croitoru, president and CEO of Food & Consumer Products of Canada. It featured a spirited discussion by Kim Jeffery, president and CEO of Nestlé Waters North America; Lynn Marmer, group VP of corporate affairs for The Kroger Co.; Kelly Semrau, SVP of global corporate affairs, communication and sustainability for SC Johnson; and David Williams, CEO of Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP.
The forum also included three concurrent sessions featuring Angela Joyner VP and GM of refrigerator portfolio for ConAgra Foods; Roz Hudnell, chief diversity officer and global director of education and external affairs for Intel Corp.; Donna Giordano, president of The Kroger Co.’s Ralphs division; Kellie McElhaney, professor at UC Berkeley; Christy Consler, VP of sustainability for Safeway, Bruce Karas, VP of environment and sustainability for Coca-Cola Refreshments; Robin Ely, senior associate dean for culture and community at Harvard Business School; Jenna Dudevoir, director of marketing for Kalypso; Lisbeth McNabb, CEO and founder of w2wlink; and Sandra Finley, president of League of Black Women.
NEW Vice Chair Catherine Lindner, VP of retail marketing for Walgreen Co., presented attendees with recent Network research on the future direction of NEW and the critical role women play in the industry’s workplace and marketplace.
In the featured photo at top: Walmart attended the NEW Executive Leaders Forum in force Aug. 1. Walmart attendees pictured, front row from left, are: Marcia McGraw; NEW Board Chair Michelle Gloeckler, SVP of home for Walmart U.S.; forum keynote speaker Gisel Ruiz, EVP and COO for Walmart U.S. Amy Bagley; and Celia Swanson. And, back row: Kim Sentebich, Rachel Marler, Tabitha Watkins, Karen Stuckey, Matt Mayes and Daria Reckom.