3 Top Women in Grocery Share Insights on Success, Mentoring, #MeToo and More

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3 Top Women in Grocery Share Insights on Success, Mentoring, #MeToo and More

06/08/2018

As women's issues in the workplace continue to garner much deserved attention, Progressive Grocer turned to its Top Women in Grocery Hall of Fame members to give their take about women finding success in leadership roles. In the era of #MeToo and #ImWithHer, women are increasingly are making their voices heard. Today, a historic high of 23 women serve in the U.S. Senate. A record number of women are running for governor in 2018. And the share of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies topped 5 percent for the first time during quarter one of 2017, with 27 women heading major firms.

The grocery industry is no exception, and from the store floor to c-suite, the 362 members of Progressive Grocer’s 2018 Top Women in Grocery class show that. But there’s still a long way to go for diversity, and male/female parity, in the workplace to become the norm and not the exception.

To help empower women as they continue making their impact in grocery retail, three VPs and Top Women in Grocery Hall of Fame members share their own stories and thoughts on topics ranging from success in the workplace and the importance of mentoring to the impact of the #MeToo movement.

 

What Does Success in the Workplace Look Like to You?

Jewel Hunt, Group VP Ecommerce, Albertsons Cos.

Success in the workplace is multifaceted. This includes providing a great work environment for our associates to serve our customers who are the heart of our business. Success is when we provide fresh quality products, with friendly employees to fulfill our customer’s needs. Success includes our workplace where employee contributions are valued and thought leadership is developed and encouraged. For our associates, knowing they are the touchpoint with our consumers and great customer interactions really matters.


 

Michele Murphy, EVP, Human Resources and Corporate Communications, Supervalu (retired)

Whatever job you are in or level you are at, success starts when you are enjoying the work you do and seeing the value you are contributing. But it has to be more than how you are feeling; Success is bilateral in that your contributions must be improving results in tangible ways that are recognized by your peers, your team and key leaders in your company.

In addition, to be successful, you must be a well-respected member of your team, [displaying] high integrity and never letting your team down, and being a great resource for others to be successful.


 

Nancy Cota, VP Consumer Brands/Category Development/Non-Perishables, Albertsons Cos.

I believe that success in the workplace is when a workforce is engaged and feels “connected” to their organization. Connected employees care about their company’s success, and they truly believe their company cares about them.

Success in the workplace is where diverse groups of people are always challenged yet choose to step up and work together to find great solutions.  It is where every employee sees a path for themselves to learn and grow, is motivated to contribute at a high level, feels valued and appreciated as well as feel they are part of something bigger than themselves.

 

How Have You Witnessed the Roles of Women Change in the Grocery – or Any Other Industry – During Your Career?

Jewel Hunt, Group VP Ecommerce, Albertsons Cos.

Our associates are empowered and encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas. In my career, I have found that a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and a commitment to helping teammates have made the difference in how we change and adapt. I have been on the receiving end of great mentors, men and women, who have invested in developing my skill sets to their full potential. I have had the good fortune of working with women in all levels of management throughout my career.

Leaders who have shown me how to step up and how to take on new challenges really made a difference. I work to pay it forward and develop similar approaches in my team. Each person brings their authentic self to work – and we value the diversity of thought and talent.


 

Michele Murphy, EVP, Human Resources and Corporate Communications, Supervalu (retired)

It used to be an anomaly and oddity for women to hold retail store jobs other than in the front end, bakery or deli. Now women can hold any job in a retail store or anywhere in the industry. The opportunities that were once constricted are now truly limitless.

That said, women have a strong need for mentoring by other women particularly those that have been successful in roles not dominated by women. Retail management still presents many work-life balance challenges that women can help resolve for all in the industry.


 

Nancy Cota, VP Consumer Brands/Category Development/Non-Perishables, Albertsons Cos.

I have witnessed a big change in the roles of women in the grocery industry in my 42 years in this industry. I began my career as a clerk in the stores where women wore a pink smock over a dress, and checked out groceries in the front end all day. All manager roles in all departments were held by men, including the store manager, district manager, etc. As a backstage employee, it was much the same 30 years ago.

I am encouraged to say that I have seen much growth in our industry and have witnessed a big evolution of women in leadership roles. I’ve always believed that in the grocery industry the backstage support employees should mirror our shopper base being a very diverse group of employees that represents our shoppers. Every year, our industry is evolving, and we are making strong inroads with more women and diversity at all levels.

 

If You Could Give One Piece of Advice to a Woman Seeking to Make a Difference in the Workplace, What Would It Be?

Jewel Hunt, Group VP Ecommerce, Albertsons Cos.

Be willing to learn. Volunteer for the tough assignments to help create solutions. Be sure to share and voice what matters to make a difference, whether it is a singular answer or a bigger project – your contributions make a difference.


 

Michele Murphy, EVP, Human Resources and Corporate Communications, Supervalu (retired)

Focus on helping others be successful more than your own success, and have a lot of fun doing it.


 

Nancy Cota, VP Consumer Brands/Category Development/Non-Perishables, Albertsons Cos.

Advocate for other women and “tell her she is ready.” Women simply must encourage other women to have the courage to challenge status quo and step up and sell themselves as the best person for a leadership role.

Women often need to be nudged to believe in themselves and be told they are ready for upward mobility. If a woman wants to make a difference in the workplace, she should have passion for what she wants to accomplish. Tell her she is ready and never, never give up.

 

 

Thoughts On ...

Giving Back

"I do volunteer work that matters to me, and I like to participate in causes that matter to others. We get a tremendous feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment out of volunteering to help others, and the rewards are such a good feeling when we make a difference. A smile, encouragement and the gift of our time and resources help so many in need." - Jewel Hunt, Group VP Ecommerce, Albertsons Cos.

"Food and nutrition needs are great in underserved and impoverished communities. Our industry leaders at every level must help ensure that the grocery industry helps meet these needs first and foremost." - Michele Murphy, EVP, Human Resources and Corporate Communications, Supervalu (retired)

"I grew up in a small town in California where it was just a part of life for most folks to be active in community service. When I went to work in the grocery industry and found the company I worked for strongly supported giving back to our local community, I felt right at home and a great sense of pride. ... As a business, I believe we need our communities as much as our communities need us. We survive, thrive and succeed together." - Nancy Cota, VP Consumer Brands/Category Development/Non-Perishables, Albertsons Cos.


 

Mentoring

"Mentoring is a great way to grow and develop talents. I think we all benefit, whether we are the mentor or mentee. I enjoy reaching out and mentoring others because I find it very rewarding to listen to associates, answer their questions and help them move forward in skillsets and career growth objectives. With informal mentoring, a simple approach like, 'Have you thought of considering XYZ?' is a good way to start a conversation and engage." - Jewel Hunt, Group VP Ecommerce, Albertsons Cos.

"Every male and female leader has something to give a mentee to help them be successful in this industry. Find what that is and how to give to someone who needs what you have to offer. Its much more than formal programs, its about authenticity, availability and reaching out to those you can help." - Michele Murphy, EVP, Human Resources and Corporate Communications, Supervalu (retired)

"Mentoring is a fundamental that every person should be required to pay it forward, as others have done for them in their career. Navigating any work environment cannot be learned in a classroom or a book; it takes guidance and experience. Especially for women still paving the road for women as leaders in the grocery industry, we need to mentor each other: from the new employee right out of college needing to be paired up with a buddy to women at the senior executive level learning how to navigate the waters of the boardroom when they are the minority." - Nancy Cota, VP Consumer Brands/Category Development/Non-Perishables, Albertsons Cos.


 

What Makes a Top Woman in Grocery

"A top woman in grocery is an individual and a 'team member' who knows how to gather resources together and achieve common goals. A top woman in grocery cares passionately about the company they work for and the team members they work with. A top woman in grocery continually develops and helps others develop. A top woman in grocery is a go-to leader in problem solving, strategy development, has great business savvy and steps up to take on challenges. A top woman in grocery sincerely cares about people, the work and the customer who is at the heart of our business." - Jewel Hunt, Group VP Ecommerce, Albertsons Cos.

"A women who loves the industry and has achieved success in various roles within the industry and who has made significant contributions to growing others in the industry." - Michele Murphy, EVP, Human Resources and Corporate Communications, Supervalu (retired)

"I believe that a top woman in grocery is someone that is willing to stick their neck out to make a difference. I believe it is not just 'what' she achieves, but it is 'how' she achieves it. She will go above and beyond in the workplace and bring others along with her, not succeed at the expense of others. A top woman in grocery is a pioneer in her own sense: She is someone who has found her voice and has used it move the needle for her company, her customers, her community and her teammates." - Nancy Cota, VP Consumer Brands/Category Development/Non-Perishables, Albertsons Cos.


 

The #MeToo Movement

"The #MeToo movement has provided a voice for those who may have not shared what matters to them and raised awareness for those who have been silent. From my perspective, we need to have open conversations, respect others and establish environments in work and beyond where everyone is protected and respected." - Jewel Hunt, Group VP Ecommerce, Albertsons Cos.

"No one should ever be abused in the workplace in any way, and to the extent a light is projected onto hidden abuse, all others will benefit from having the abuse exposed and corrected." - Michele Murphy, EVP, Human Resources and Corporate Communications, Supervalu (retired)

"I am very much supportive of the #MeToo movement. With this movement, women are finding their courage to speak up. Together, their message is being taken very seriously, and we are making headway toward real change. I believe in something my company professes, zero tolerance." - Nancy Cota, VP Consumer Brands/Category Development/Non-Perishables, Albertsons Cos.