Powerful List of Women

Discussion
Nov 09, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Fortune magazine has released its annual list of the “Most Powerful Women in Business” and, not surprisingly, it includes a number of female executives in retailing.


Among those on the list were Mary Sammons, president and CEO of Rite Aid, Linda Dillman, EVP and CIO at Wal-Mart and her associate at the company, Claire Watts, VP, product development, apparel and home merchandising.


Others such as eBay chairman and CEO Meg Whitman (number one on Fortune’s list) and Martha Stewart may not work directly in the industry but certainly have an impact on retail activity.


Moderator’s Comment: Which women would you put on the most powerful list of retailers? How would retail look different if more women were in charge?

George Anderson – Moderator

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16 Comments on "Powerful List of Women"


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George Anderson
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

Here’s a far from complete list of other women to add to top contributors at the executive level in retailing.

Target Corp.

Patricia Adams, senior vp, merchandising

Janet Schalk, senior vp & CIO

Dollar General

Kathleen Guion, executive vice president of store operations and store development

Susan Lanigan, executive vice president, general counsel

Rita Branham, vice president of merchandise support

Anita Elliott, senior vice president and controller

Challis Lowe, executive vice president of human resources

Sears Holdings

Lisa Schultz, executive vice president, Apparel Design

Wal-Mart Stores

M. Susan Chambers, executive vp of risk management and benefits administration

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

Obviously it is more difficult for women to rise to the top levels. Some of it is just nature and some of it is discrimination. If more women were to make it to the higher ranks, I do not see much change taking place at the retail level. However, I would expect to see some minor changes in the HR environment that would be slightly more sympathetic towards women’s issues. But I could be wrong. Women get elected to high level government offices all the time. So far, I have not seen any changes to our society as a result.

Gwen Kelly
Guest
Gwen Kelly
15 years 3 months ago

Mark and Rick have essentially captured my thoughts on this subject. But here’s my postscript. My gut instinct in looking at this list is that if you’d examine the career path these women had to take to rise to their current positions, we might find very few parallels in paths between women and their male counterparts. There in lies the challenge. So today there may be some incredible talent waiting to be given the opportunity to perform but the system is such that, even now, there remains some serious obstacles when one looks at how talent is identified and mentored, male versus female. Yes, it is frustrating that we are still having these discussions but we are and it is positive to engage in this dialogue for it remains necessary.

George Anderson
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

We should have included these women on our earlier list for Target, we’ve been told. We’re sure there are many other deserving executives we’ve overlooked at Target and elsewhere.

Tina Schiel

Senior Vice President, Region III

Gina Sprenger

Senior Vice President, Merchandising

Kathryn Tesija

Senior Vice President, Merchandising

Laysha Ward

Vice President, Community Relations

Jane Windmeier

Senior Vice President, Finance

Lois Huff
Guest
Lois Huff
15 years 3 months ago
Unfortunately, this discussion is still warranted. The “system” at many retailers does indeed favor men over women, both unintentionally (e.g., power lunches/golfing) and, at some retailers, intentionally. This is a problem. Why? Consider a parallel example: I — as a Boomer white woman — certainly feel qualified to be involved in creating strategies that focus on teens and Latinos. However, I also recognize that I lack important “insider information” and it is necessary to bring age or race specific experts into the process. Smart retailers (particularly those whose core customers are women) should recognize that, while male executives are indeed valuable, there must also be involvement of “women insiders” when important decisions are being made. If women aren’t high up in the executive ranks, it is doubtful this involvement will occur to the degree needed. Just as with teens or Latinos, due to nothing more than demographics, women will have a greater degree of insight than will most men into the female customer’s mindset re: needs, aspirations, emotions, behaviors and all of those elements that… Read more »
Elly Valas
Guest
Elly Valas
15 years 3 months ago

The real problem is that society itself has not changed as much as we may think it has.

Although women may hold up half the sky, study after study shows that we are still the dominate homemaker. We do more than half of the grocery shopping, carpooling, housecleaning, gift shopping, party planning, homework coaching, cooking, etc.

Some women have figured out that it’s difficult to do it all. They get off the ladder once they discover the stress, challenges and the retailing hours–including more nights and weekends than in other professions.

I consult primarily in the home goods space–appliances, furniture and consumer electronics. We have been actively trying to recruit women into the industry for over 20 years but it’s an uphill battle.

I’m not sure if it’s a glass ceiling as much as just the reality of life’s priorities. Perhaps women understand them more than their male counterparts.

Nicholas Armentano
Guest
Nicholas Armentano
15 years 3 months ago

One of the women I think who is most influential in the world of retailing is Jane Elfers, president of Lord & Taylor. She has started to make the chain more upscale, scaling back coupons and introducing brands to the stores (more Betsey Johnson and less Liz Clairborne). In fact, Lord & Taylor was the first store to have a woman as president – Dorothy Shaver who first expanded the chain over 50 years ago.

Lynn Toler
Guest
Lynn Toler
15 years 3 months ago

Women’s ideas are often time not viewed with the same open-mindedness as a man’s. In the retail world, we make the majority of the purchases, however, male management does not respect our point of view. We are viewed as if we are of lesser importance.

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
15 years 3 months ago

I would have thought that Shelley Broader, the president and COO at Sweetbay Supermarkets, would have made the list. If that concept works, and I think it will, it will be largely due to her vision, insights into consumers (largely female) and leadership.

I was also a little surprised that Drugstore.com’s President, CEO and Chairman of the Board Dawn Lepore didn’t make the list. If anyone is going to make a go of that business, she is the person to do it.

Rick Moss
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

David, you may very well be right that women in influential retail positions will not substantially change the way business is run. However, I don’t think you can make that assumption based on what women are doing in public office. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, for instance, has had a marked influence on the Supreme Court. It’s arguable whether there was anything distinctly “feminine” about her work and decisions, but many would say that she had a moderating affect. Presently, there are 13 women Senators. I’m sure none of them think they’re working in a way that is exclusive to women, and yet, again, I think their sensitivity to women’s issues drives their work in many ways. The last thing we want to do is try to generalize or stereotype. Women in top retail positions are going to come in all shapes and sizes, but I do think they’ll bring a change in management style, in many cases.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
15 years 3 months ago

The teeth of leadership lions aren’t determined by gender;

Food retailing is a tough business no matter who’s the mender.

If women were in charge at Wal-Mart, Kroger or Trader Joe’s,

Would such questions continue to step on food retailers’ toes?

Think about it!

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 3 months ago

I always found it interesting that, in a business (all of retail, in fact) which relies so heavily on female shoppers, there are so few top executives of the same gender.

However, Mr Mathews is quite correct. Why are we still having this discussion?

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

In many companies, there’s no doubt that retailing is a “boy’s club.” CEOs are approved by the board of directors. I believe that only 15% of publicly-held board members are female. If the boards and the CEOs actually reflected the gender and racial makeup of this country, retailers would serve their customers better and be more profitable. When personnel decisions are made on a merit basis, performance is optimal. When board members and executives are chosen from the same tired, few-new-ideas pool, we get tired, few-new-ideas retail firms.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 3 months ago

The rise of executive power by women is no surprise. eBay’s CEO showed the world and, being the first, how to make a profit through the internet.

Boldness, not taking a ‘back seat’ from anyone, and smarts have lead the top 50 women to succeed. And more will rise to the top! Great role models for the women of today.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 3 months ago

I find it a tad disturbing that we’re still having this kind of discussion as though the idea of a female executive was akin to a talking dolphin. Leadership is what’s critical, not gender. These executives are good on their own merit, not in spite of biology. The sooner we get over these kinds of ways at looking at people, the sooner we’ll be able to discuss performance in a purest sense — a topic really worth discussing.

Gracey Shamcey
Guest
Gracey Shamcey
15 years 3 months ago

As a female, I know the ‘glass ceiling’ is all too real but not the ‘norm’. Most companies and business partners worth their salt embrace a diverse group of leaders that resemble their market. Too often I see females build their own ‘glass ceiling’ by believing their gender is what is holding them back. It’s a great organization that will reward based on merit and not seniority; based on who I am not what I am.

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