Although the Top Women in Grocery — affectionately, and this year appropriately, known as TWIGs — whom Progressive Grocer selects every year can attribute the honor to their own hard work and willingness to go the extra mile, most, if not all, of them would readily admit that they didn’t get there by themselves.
Most had a mentor at the start of their careers, often a manager of either gender who took an interest in their professional development and encouraged them to make the most of the opportunities that came their way. In return, many TWIGs have decided to pay their gratitude forward by acting as mentors to up-and- coming female associates.
More than ever, however, mentoring of women has become more formalized, through such entities as associate resource groups, Lean In circles and organizations like the Network of Executive Women, all of which offer structures enabling participants to discuss the problems women face in the workplace and how they can overcome those issues and further their careers. That way, fewer female associates will fall through the cracks or migrate to other industries offering easier paths to the c-suite.
That being the case, it’s only natural that the nominators of many of this year’s Top Women in Grocery cited their mentoring experiences among their outstanding achievements.
Take Suzette Stevenson, manager of compliance at Landover, Md.-based Giant Food LLC, for example, who “stepped in as a co-lead of the [company’s internal] mentoring circles and has proven to be a tremendous resource to all of the existing mentoring teams,” according to her nomination form. “In a short period of time, she was able to revamp the mentoring circle teams and increase the number of participants, ensuring there are active circles across the entire Giant Landover market area. Suzette participated in various circles as an observer and gathered key information to help establish best practices and common threads that were shared among all the mentoring teams. Suzette’s focus on the overall health of [the] mentoring circles elevated the effectiveness of the program in 2016 and laid the foundation for an even greater 2017.”
Of course, the tried-and true, one-on-one style of mentoring is still alive and well among our Top Women. Michelle Hall, director, corporate human resources at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer, “invests herself each and every day in actively mentoring and coaching talent across HR and within the corporate functions she serves,” her nomination form notes. “Michelle’s impact comes in her ability to deliver direct and candid feedback in a way that inspires personal and professional growth and development.”
Our Top Women aren’t content to foster diversity just by mentoring workplace colleagues, however. Katie Pacanowski, manager, RSC HR business at Pittsburgh- based Giant Eagle, is involved with the nonprofit Pennsylvania Women Work’s 3 Cups of Coffee program, which empowers women in career transition through job readiness, emotional growth, education, training and employment, while Alia Al- Hagri, leader, indirect sourcing and supply optimization at Cincinnati-based Kroger, as an advisory board member of the University of Cincinnati’s ADVANCE program, helps female and male students of color develop professional skills as they prepare to enter the workforce.
This year, PG received more than 600 submissions, from which we had the near-impossible task of selecting our slate of 2017 Top Women.
To the 348 selected — truly the standouts in their field — we offer our warmest congratulations, along with kudos to all of the unsung mentors who helped them grow into the exemplary role models they are, and cheers that so many TWIGs have chosen to share their wealth of experience not only with peers at their companies and beyond, but also, perhaps most crucially, with the next generation.
Read more about PG's 2017 Top Women in Grocery.