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5 Questions with Robert Solomon

Thursday, April 16, 2015  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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The NEW Executive Institute, a 12-month leadership development experience for women executives in the retail and consumer goods industry, is accepting applications until June 26, 2015. The one-of-a-kind program is designed to advance individual leaders and create stronger organizations. The NEW Executive Institute is spearheaded by NEW Director of Talent Development Robert Solomon, who recently gave us a peek inside the Institute — and how it will help transform the industry and the careers of the 36 women chosen to participate.

What industry and workplace trends led to the development of the NEW Executive Institute?

Our industry leaders know U.S. women have tremendous — and growing — purchasing power, estimated to up to $15 trillion annually. They control nearly 73 percent of household spending — and Canadian women report controlling or influencing more than 67 percent of their household spending.

Yet while women represent almost half of the U.S. retail industry's total workforce, they are fewer than one in five corporate officers and one in 20 CEOs. The NEW Executive Institute is an intentional effort to help close the persistent gender gap in our industry's leadership.

What leadership development needs does it address, specifically?

The NEW Executive Institute is designed to develop the traits that senior executives and industry research have identified as game-changing skills and characteristics for executive success in our industry. 

Its foundation is the NEW Career Accelerator Model, created in partnership with the renowned Center for Creative Leadership exclusively to support women’s professional development in our industry. The model outlines eight key career competencies and five derailers that, frankly, make or break your career. [Download the NEW special report "Accelerators: Critical Competencies for Women Leaders in Retail and Consumer Goods."]

The NEW Career Accelerator Model lays the groundwork for the NEW Executive Institute's three off-site immersion sessions, its webinars and conference calls, one-on-one coaching sessions, and ongoing education and networking.

Coaches who are certified by the Center for Creative Leadership will be customizing the learning experience to the women selected to participate. This way, we create a supportive environment where these emerging women executives can take risks, make mistakes and get real-time feedback from peers. Few women have the opportunity to receive a 360-assessment that pinpoints their strengths and areas for improvement that are critical to advancing their careers. It's all about increasing women's self-awareness of their performance and leadership ability.

Who would best benefit from the NEW Executive Institute?

The program is designed for women leaders who are already transforming society and the industry through their outstanding professional record, organizational advancement and societal contributions. It's tailor-fitted for high-potential women who are three to five tiers from the top of their organization’s hierarchy. NEW desires to support and develop these leaders for increased responsibility by bolstering their skillsets and networks through cutting-edge research, leading industry experts and whole-self support.

How are you choosing the first group of women from the applications you receive?

The first step is to complete the online application, which is designed to help NEW assess the basic criteria for the program. (For more, see the NEW Executive Institute prospectus.) Applications will be reviewed by the NEW Education Committee, with an eye for applicants who have had a mix of professional experiences and recognized growth potential. They will also be reviewed for how they contribute to the overall picture of the cohort. We'd like to select a group that reflects a mix of retailers and manufacturers, across functions, with diverse experiences and backgrounds. Applicants who aren't selected for this year’s cohort because they did not meet the selection criteria will be invited to participate in the NEW Rising Stars program. If a woman meets the criteria but isn't accepted due to the limited program capacity, she'll automatically be accepted into the next NEW Executive Institute cohort.

How will the NEW Executive Institute experience continue after the last session?

All NEW Executive Institute alumni are automatically lifelong members of the Alumni Support Network, designed to promote their continued growth by nurturing their relationships with NEW, sponsoring organizations, and, most importantly, other alumni. The Alumni Support Network includes web-based social media and annual invitations to participate in alumni sessions and NEW programs such as the NEW Leadership Summit and our 20 regions' events. We will host an annual NEW Executive Institute session, a day and a half of leadership development programming.

By providing effective tools and valuable experiences that push emerging executive women to the next level, we are supporting our own mission to advance women, grow business and transform our industry's workplace.

For more information about the NEW Executive Institute, contact Vice President of Marketing & Corporate Partnership Nancy Krawczyk or Director of Corporate Partnerships Reagan Lund.

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