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Julie Gilbert Newrai addresses ‘Women and the Future of Retail’

Posted By Barb Francella, Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"This is not about me; this is about we,” Julie Gilbert Newrai, President of Wolf and former senior vice president for Best Buy, told NEW Leadership Summit attendees during her presentation "Women and the Future of Retail.”

Fifteen years ago, the primary consumer was male, she noted. Advertising was heavily geared toward men, with multimillion-dollar campaigns designed to engage a decidedly male audience.

"If you think about the ads that you see [now,]” she said. "Who is in the room making [buying] decisions, and how many of them are women?”

Today, women control $12 trillion of the world’s $18.5 trillion in consumer spending. "Women think differently,” Gilbert Newrai said. "Our brains are physiologically different, with different chemicals and hemispheres that fire simultaneously. "This is not to say that men are bad and women are good. This is to say we think differently. We seek out emotional cues and a higher intuitive level than most men.”

These differences represent a massive financial opportunity for companies in the areas of branding and talent management, she said.  At a time when fewer than 20 percent of Fortune 500 board seats are filled by women, NEW members must "see the opportunity to change,” Gilbert Newrai said. "We now can't afford to do things the same. It's not moving the percentages of women up the ladder.”

Because the many of world’s largest companies were built over time, some over a hundred years, the traditional, established structure and hierarchy were set by men. Women are stuck in a "frozen middle,” Gilbert Newrai said. "Women sometimes have to downplay, so as not to seem too big for their britches.”

"You have the passion,” she said. "You want transformational change to happen, or you wouldn't be here. This is not about me, this is about we. We have to be committed, are you ready to make this happen?” The crowd answered with a hearty "Yes!”

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