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Guest Column: The Year in Review: The More Things Change…

Cindy Sorensen
Cindy Sorensen

by Cindy Sorensen/SVP of Business Development, Midwest Dairy Association

(Editor’s note: Cindy Sorensen would like to note that these are her views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Midwest Dairy Association.)

In a year that saw so much change in consumer shopping and consumption habits and in grocery distribution channels, much has stayed the same in our industry.

As I wrap up my 35th year in the grocery industry, I reflect on the beginning of my career. It was 1983. I was a sales rep selling to 65 independent grocery stores. All 65 of the grocery department managers to whom I sold were men. I was one of only two female sales reps in my region of 35 sales reps and there were no female unit managers within the whole organization for whom I worked, which was a large multinational consumer packaged goods company.

In fact, when I was promoted to a unit manager in 1985, I became the first female unit manager in the company. When I won the Unit Manager of the Year award in 1988, it was the first time a woman had won the award. Recipients were recognized with a company ring. The company had to scramble to work with the ring designer to create the first ring design for a woman to meet a short deadline so that it would be ready for me at the award ceremony.

Fast forward to 2017, and unfortunately not much has changed in the diversity of this industry that I love so much. I attend several large industry conferences each year and the diversity of attendees from retailers and supporting companies in attendance does not reflect the diversity in our society.

At two of the industry events this year, I had the opportunity to mentor young women in attendance; one was a college student whose university sponsored her attendance at the event, and the other was a young industry professional who attended the conference with me on a mentor grant we received from the International Dairy, Deli, Bakery Association. On both occasions, with both of the individuals at these industry events, each of them said to me, “I don’t see anyone who looks like
me here.”

My heart sank at hearing these words and the enormity of the reality of these words.

I have had an amazing career in this industry. I have worked hard and I have met and surmounted challenges along the way. But hearing these words stopped me in my tracks.

The grocery industry is faced with a labor shortage much like many other industries. But to hear these comments from the potential and very talented workforce for which we are competing should be a wake-up call to all of us in this industry to foster an environment where all are welcome.

It is through a diverse workforce that we will be able to reach and be relevant to the changing face of our shoppers, customers and consumers.

It is a personal responsibility of mine to help foster an environment in this industry to help attract and retain a talented workforce for the future sustainability of our industry.

I would love to hear what your organizations are doing to increase diversity, and attract and maintain a motivated workforce.

Contact Sorensen at 651-925-6263 or [email protected]

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Merchandising—Breaking The Paradigms At Retail

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