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Walmart COO Gisel Ruiz shares life lessons at NEW Forum

Thursday, August 2, 2012  
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A legacy is not a project, it’s a way of life and what you leave behind, Gisel Ruiz, executive vice president and COO of Walmart US, told attendees of the NEW Executive Leaders Forum Aug. 1, 2012 at Terranea Resort.

In her keynote address "A Legacy in Progress,” Ruiz spoke about Walmart’s efforts to create a career path for women and the lessons she has learned as she rose through the ranks. "Why am I here? Two reasons: I have an interesting story, and because I work for Walmart,” Ruiz said. "We have about 800,000 women working in U.S. alone, about the population of San Francisco. Two hundred thousand women have been there for 10 years or more – quite a commitment, especially in retail. Last year, we promoted over 80,000 women, which was all about finding the best people for the job, and not gender.”

Key to Walmart’s progress, she said, is not philosophizing, but transforming by changing things and taking action.

To better position themselves in the workplace, women should not be afraid to reveal themselves. You can define what you will or won’t stand for and what you believe, but the breakthrough is how you demonstrate your values and principles at work, she said. "Reveal your whole self at work – consistency is the cousin of integrity. That is being honest with who you are. Bring it all to work. Your ‘true north’ will never change.”

She also advised the crowd to "Lose the guilt,” adding, "W
e set such high expectations for ourselves, that when we don’t meet them, we fall prey to guilt. Guilt exists at home and at work. When we’re with family and worry about what work will think, that’s guilt.”

There is no work/life "balance,” she said, "There is work, and there is life and choices. You have to be okay with your choices. Take your steps forward without having to justify decisions, or picturing other people’s judgments.”

Women need to seek and accept help, she added. "W
hen you’re a store manager, you’re it. You’re the boss,” she said. "Things are very different in an environment like the home office. It becomes less about you than about other people. Having a circle of people that you can trust, including sponsors and mentors, is crucial. With many different functions, you can’t do it alone. You need help – and people won’t think less of you for asking. Be clear about it and remember to recognize your help.”

Don’t be afraid to "roar,” she said."Leverage your strengths, don’t change them. Be a woman. It is a gift. Women bring a different perspective to conversations and dialogue. Don’t struggle with hair, makeup, heels -- whatever makes you feel powerful, whatever makes you feel good about yourself, do it.”

Although Ruiz has met extraordinary people on the job, her legacy is how she puts these stories together for her children so that they see the empowerment of women through casual conversations. "Plant these seeds,” she said. "If there’s going to be a change, an empowerment in women, it doesn’t start with how you feel about an event like this, it starts with what you do. What you do with your company, your leadership. In order for there to be transformation, there has to be action.”

"Having a circle of people that you can trust, including sponsors
 and mentors, is crucial,"  Walmart US COO Gisel Ruiz told attendees
 of the NEW Executive Leaders Forum.

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