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Dateline Summit: ‘Lisa and Sarah’ confront inequality

NEW Vice Chair Lisa Walsh and NEW CEO Sarah Alter at NEW Summit

NEW President and CEO Sarah Alter and NEW Vice Chair Lisa Walsh, senior vice president of sales for PepsiCo Inc., explored women’s leadership and the future of the Network Executive Women at the NEW Leadership Summit, September 28, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Alter said, “My favorite quote is this, 'If your dreams don’t scare you, they just aren’t big enough.’ I am proud to work for an organization with big dreams.”

The two women discussed the challenges facing women in business and the retail and consumer goods and services industry.

“The United States is the only country where women’s labor participation is actually declining,” Alter noted. “Other industrialized countries have female labor participation rates in 80s [percentile], ” she said. "The rate of women in the workforce in the U.S. is only 57 percent."

Alter observed the retail and consumer goods industry “was dead last” in advancing women to the c-suite among nine industries surveyed by McKinsey in 2015. “We have 46 percent women in our workforce, but only 13 percent in senior leadership,” she said.

Flexibility was key to having more women leaders in the industry, Walsh said. While other countries are expanding childcare and paid leave, the United States has lagged behind.

Alter outlined deliverables of the NEW Future Fund capital campaign, co-chaired by PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and Target Corporation CEO Brian Cornell. These include new technology already launched with the Network’s new website and online Member Community, insights and benchmarks to help organizations, and best practices to support women through “crucial pivot points in their careers,” including starting a family, care-giving or reassignment.

NEW has tremendous assets as it tackles its ambitious vision of “a workplace with no limits,” Alter said. Chief among these is its “passionate 10,000-member community,” which she described as “10,000 stilettos on the ground,” and its 21 regions coast to coast.

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