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NEW members offer insights on women leaders at FMI 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012  
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The Network of Executive Women was front and center at FMI 2012, April 30- May 3, 2012 in Dallas, as NEW President and CEO Joan Toth joined Board members in a panel discussion about women in leadership roles.

Toth moderated the panel discussion that featured NEW Board members Marie Quintana, CEO of Quintana Group, and Annie Zipfel, vice president of owned brands for Target, plus NEW member Teresa Turley,vice president of operations, corporate human resources for The Kroger Company. The industry leaders shared their personal journeys up the corporate ladder and offered their views on the value of women in senior-level positions.

Women point to three major obstacles to advancement, Toth said: a lack of female role models, lack of access to informal networks and lack of sponsors to provide opportunities.

"Women are often promoted for performance while men are promoted for potential,” she noted.

Organizations can provide more opportunities for advancing women by focusing on sponsorship, rather than mentorship only; increasing the number of women in middle management; and providing women with key line management experience, Toth said.

"To be an authentic leader, you must first know who you are and the strengths you bring to the table,” said Quintana, formerly senior vice president of multicultural sales for PepsiCo, who credited her parents with greatly influencing and shaping her leadership style.

Zipfel shared the importance of cultivating female talent. "Women bring many assets to both the workplace and the home,” she said. "Leverage their lens as leaders and as shoppers in the marketplace to drive business results.”

Women are typically very good at building relationships, a key leadership skill that facilitates trust, Turley noted. At Kroger, employee resource groups are used to develop talent. "Our ERGs are successful because we use our groups to generate business impact and measure outcomes.”

Target recently launched its Women’s Business Council with several events, including an on-site panel that attracted over 500 participants. "Our legacy is to develop, engage and retain female talent and our Women’s Business Council will help us do this in a meaningful way.”

At PepsiCo, the Women in Sales business resource group uses the Network’s regional groups and events as a field sales network to mentor and develop high potential leaders, Quintana noted.

The women leaders also discussed the difference between mentors and sponsors – and the importance of both. "Mentors nurture your career and provide advice, while sponsors advocate for your advancement with key decision makers,” Zipfel said. "Sponsors are constantly thinking of ways to impact your career, so it is critical to develop relationships and cultivate more than one sponsor.”

Toth closed the session with straightforward advice: "Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Be bold and courageous. Take advantage of opportunities that create cross-functional exposure to broaden your brand and sponsor base.”

The Network was also represented by NEW Conference Designer Trudy Bourgeois, founder and CEO of the Center for Workforce Excellence, who provided a keynote address on "How to Lead in Today’s Troubled Economy.” After an introduction by NEW Vice President of Sales and Marketing Nancy Krawczyk, who serves on FMI’s education committee, Bourgeois explored the flexibility and resilience leaders need to drive innovation and success in good times and bad. Participants took part in a self-assessment quiz about change and left with an action plan that focused on six principles: Change or die, read the tea leaves, focus on the people, establish the right anchor, build new capabilities and leverage diversity and inclusion.

"Win first with your internal customers, your employees, to win with your consumers,” Bourgeois advised. "Slow down to speed up, take time to reflect and to learn new things every day, and build and embrace a plan that includes a change model."

Annie Zipfel, Joan Toth, Teresa Turley and Marie Quintana offered
their thoughts on women in leadership roles in the cpg/retail industry.

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