Have women permanently broken through retail’s glass ceiling?
Once Lauren Hobart’s pending promotion to Dick’s Sporting Goods’ CEO takes effect at the close of the retail year, 10 of Fortune 500’s 41 female CEOs will be from retailers (assuming no other changes), according to The Wall Street Journal.
A Korn Ferry analysis from April 2019 of the top 1,000 U.S. companies found retail already leading among industries with the highest percentage of female CEOs, at 12 percent.
The Journal noted that Ms. Hobart’s promotion follows recent first-time female CEO milestones reached at Rite Aid and CVS as well as Citigroup and Clorox as part of a broader trend.
Past efforts to establish a strong pipeline of female candidates has paid off for retail, according to the Journal’s reporting. Retail’s digital disruption is also believed to have changed the traditional path of chief merchant toward retail CEO, widening opportunities for female candidates.
“It’s forced boards to think outside the box and to look at where opportunity is being created, and that has created an opportunity for women to shine,” Jane Stevenson, who leads Korn Ferry’s CEO-succession practice, told the paper.
Ms. Hobart, a former PepsiCo marketing executive before joining Dick’s in 2011, spearheaded the retailer’s online push and identified growth areas in private label and women’s categories.
The natural benefit retailers should gain from having women in leadership positions was also cited as a factor behind retail’s success with women CEO representation, according to a December 2019 Bloomberg article. Christa Hart, senior managing director at FTI Consulting, told Bloomberg, “To some degree, I think boards like the idea that companies are being run by the customer that they’re targeting.”
The article highlighted recent first-time female CEOs landing at Genesco, Kohl’s, J.C. Penney and Best Buy.
The “Women in the Workplace” report from McKinsey and LeanIn.Org found slow but steady progress being made over the last few years, with women in the c-suite aided by flexible working norms, bias training and a focus on mentorships and accountability. COVID-19, however, was found to significantly threaten further progress by exacerbating challenges women face balancing work and home life.
- Dick’s Sporting Goods Announces Planned Leadership Succession – Dick’s Sporting Goods
- There Are More Female CEOs Than Ever, and Many of Them Are in Retail – The Wall Street Journal
- Korn Ferry Analysis Of Largest U.S. Companies Shows Percentage Of Women In C-Suite Roles Inches Up From Previous Year – Korn Ferry
- Largest Study of Women in Corporate America Finds 1 in 4 Women Are Considering Leaving the Workforce or Downshifting Their Careers Due to Covid-19 – LeanIn.Org
- Silver lining to the retail apocalypse: More women get a shot at being CEO – Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What is driving the success retailers are finding versus other industries in promoting women to CEO roles? Is it any more or less important in retail vs. other industries for women to be in C-suite positions?