When we talk about gender inequality in the workforce, the conversation usually revolves around only a handful of high-profile industries – technology, engineering and financial services – where the imbalance is pervasive at all levels.
Unfortunately, these industries aren’t alone in their lack of female leaders. The retail and consumer goods sector is one of the most male-dominated, with women occupying less than 30% of senior leadership roles and only 13% of C-level positions, less than any other industry, according to a 2018 study from the Network for Executive Women (NEW).
While gender imbalance is bad for any business, it’s especially problematic in consumer and retail, where women drive 80% of all buying decisions. How can grocery brands effectively reach their target audiences when they aren’t taking female perspectives into account at the highest levels?
What Women Want
I’ve grappled with this question in one way or another for a long time. When I joined Krasdale in 2009, I was the only woman in my department. Since then, I’ve hired other women onto my team. Together, we’ve significantly built out our digital and social media operations, which has helped us better engage with our prime audience: busy women juggling work and family. We know what they want because we want those same things: healthy convenient foods that we can feel good about feeding our families.
At the same time, we’ve seen parallel increases in female leadership among our base of customers. While most of our longtime store owners are men, they are increasingly passing the reins of their businesses to their daughters. When I first started at the company, no one was actively making connections with these second-generation store owners. Over time, we formed strong bonds with them, helping to establish a community of women that’s critical to our long-term success.
Today, we’re proud to see women steadily moving up the ladder of our organization. With a deep bench of talent, we’re on track to nurture and promote new generations of diverse talent, helping to create greater inclusion, not simply in our own organization, but within the broader industry.
The best businesses grow and evolve with the times. They also invest in the future.
For the past three years, we’ve hosted students from Her Honor, a program that provides mentorship opportunities for young women preparing for college and beyond. Two days a week, seniors from White Plains High School come to our offices to learn real-world skills. We recognize that early mentorship is an effective way to bring about positive change and drive innovation.
Robert F. Kennedy said: “Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.” As leaders, it’s our responsibility to actively create the business and world we want to see. Ask yourself: Is there a program you can institute that will help to nurture women and other underrepresented communities? How can we improve communication and create a more inclusive workforce?
Diversity produces stronger, more successful businesses. That’s true whether you build algorithms or stock grocery store shelves.