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Diversity, Inclusion Are Table Stakes For Businesses Seeking Success

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Greg Ferrara

by Greg Ferrara / President and CEO, National Grocers Association

Diversity and inclusion are more than just buzzwords of the times. They are concepts that, when embraced, can have a positive and profound impact on one’s business.

Our nation continues to become increasingly more diverse, and with it the base of consumers upon which independent community grocers rely upon for their success. 

We live in a time where consumers in greater numbers are looking beyond the shelf to determine the value of a business, making it ever more important that businesses, inside and out, reflect the communities that they serve.

To that end, the National Grocers Association is taking a leading role in advancing diversity and inclusion at all levels of our industry, particularly in the executive suite.

The NGA Foundation has partnered with PepsiCo to create the Leadership Endowment, a new scholarship program that will cover the cost for a female or minority candidate to attend the foundation’s annual Executive Leadership Development Program at Cornell University. 

The endowment will award one scholarship a year for the next 10 years. It will cover the cost of attending the program, which this year is scheduled for June 6-10.

This scholarship will ensure that candidates from small businesses who might otherwise not be able to participate in the ELDP will have a chance to pursue leadership development opportunities offered by the foundation.

The partnership with NGAF is another step in PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey, which last year saw the company invest nearly $850 million to advance and empower Black and Hispanic communities in the United States over the next five years.

Nominees should be rising executives who are candidates for increased management responsibilities. Recipients will be selected by a diverse committee made up of members of the NGAF Board of Regents, the Women Grocers of America, a representative from Cornell University’s Executive Education program and PepsiCo leadership.

Meanwhile, Women Grocers of America – NGA’s career development network for active female professionals and students pursuing careers with independent grocers – has opened nominations for its annual Woman of the Year Award.

Established in 1996 to provide visible support and recognition to women exemplifying leadership and passion in the independent grocer industry, the Woman of the Year is a visionary who is an inspiration to others within her community and workplace, and who helps shape the face of her company or organization while distinguishing herself from her peers.

Recent recipients of the Woman of the Year Award include Jan Gee, former president of the Washington Food Industry Association, in recognition of more than 30 years as a voice for small businesses, specifically those in the independent sector; and Jennifer Graff of Columbiana Foods/Giant Eagle, honored for three decades of helping her peers and inspiring the next generation.

As Peter Larkin, NGA’s former president and CEO, noted about Gee when she won the award in 2019, “She has played a key role as a mentor for women in the industry, inspiring and encouraging many to take on leadership positions.” 

Graff began her grocery career as a cashier 30 years ago, steadily rising through the ranks to lead merchandising, sales, recruiting, training and team-leader development.

Gee and Graff are just two examples of outstanding women leaders in our industry. Because of their mentoring and the standard of excellence they and other leaders set for future generations, there will continue to be many more for years to come.


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