Welcome to the Retail Rundown, your go-to weekly podcast where RETHINK Retail teams up with industry experts to discuss the news and trends defining the world of retail.

At the close of 2020, women held just 7.8% of S&P 500 CEO positions.

We were in attendance at Shoptalk’s Meetup for Women event last week, where we spoke with dozens of women who are keeping the retail industry progress forward. In this episode, we share some of our key takeaways from the event, including a survey we conducted with women in business.

Joining the show today are RETHINK Retail’s Natalie Arana, Gabriella Bock and Paula Macaggi.

You’ll also hear quotes and insights from Forrester‘s VP Principal Analyst, Retail Surcharita Kodali; Sarah Rogowsky, director of digital strategy and future experience at Lululemon Athleta; Nikki Kaufman, co-founder of CAMP; Melodie van der Baan, co-founder & CEO of SwapRetail; The RealReal’s VP of Retail Courtney Hawkins; Christine Russo, a digital and physical retail consultant and a RETHINK Retail advisor; Beth McNeely, head of e-commerce at Charlotte Tilbury; and Ami Galani, vice president of business development at Dick’s Sporting Goods; 

If you enjoyed this episode, please let us know by subscribing to our channel and giving us a 5 star rating us on Apple Podcasts. 

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Hosted by Julia Raymond Hare
Written and produced by Gabriella Bock
Edited by Trenton Waller

 

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Julia Raymond Hare:
Hello, everyone. Thank you for tuning into the Retail Rundown podcast. I’m your host, Julia Raymond Hare and today, I am joined by several of my RETHINK Retail colleagues. We were in attendance at Shoptalk’s women’s meetup event last week, and we are looking forward to sharing some of our key takeaways from the event. But first, I’d like to introduce you to three of the women who keep this podcast running and not just the podcast, but the RETHINK Retail brand. Natalie Arana is our marketing and social media manager. Gabriella Bock is our writer, producer and show runner and Paula Macaggi is our media account executive. Thanks for joining today, team. It’s great to have you on the show.

Natalie Arana:
It’s great to be here.

Paula Macaggi:
Thank you.

Gabriella Bock:
Thanks, Julia. It’s great to be here on the other end of the show.

Julia Raymond Hare:
Yeah, the tables turned and it’s great to have people from the team and talking about being a woman in business and in retail and Natalie and Paula, you both spent hours, countless hours last week, meeting with female leaders from the world’s biggest brands and solution providers. So I’d like you to share today with our listeners, what kind of conversations you were having, what stood out to you the most and things like that. I’ll have Natalie go first.

Natalie Arana:
Yeah. So this was a very empowering event. I definitely enjoyed talking to all the female leaders I was paired up with. Their excitement for innovation and trends in the space. And then they also shared some of the projects they’re working on. And it just really energized me to keep exploring this fast-paced industry. Obviously, it’s part of RETHINK, but also as an avid consumer myself, I would say what stood out to me the most was their career paths to their current roles.

Natalie Arana:
So learning how they got to their positions today and the importance that they all placed in putting yourself out there and welcoming new opportunities as they come your way. So yeah, these conversations reinforced my views, that confidence in your professional abilities is key. And the fear of failure should never hinder you. So I was talking to the VP of Business Development at DICK’s Sporting Goods, her name is Ami Galani, and she told me it’s not okay to feel you are not good at math. So it’s not really a matter of capability, it’s totally a matter of comfort and there’s no harm in trying ever, ever. So, which is something that I think was very good advice.

Paula Macaggi:
Yeah, it was very interesting for me as well. I met so many women and it was interesting to hear the different paths they had in their career. And I’ve noticed that the women who have worked in bigger corporations had more incentives than those who worked in small companies. What also caught my attention was how inspiring they all were. I definitely left these meetings feeling more empowered and stronger as a professional. I had the opportunity to participate in two table talks where a group of five women from several different stages in their career discussing the importance of having mentors and the next trends in marketing. The conversations had such a good flow that we agreed to keep taking them monthly. One of the conversations that I’ve had to caught my attention was that this specific woman, she came from an ad agency background. And she said that brands were picking agencies by how diverse they were. So that’s a good thing from my view.

Julia Raymond Hare:
Both good points. Natalie, you talked about a very specific piece of advice from a woman leader at DICK’s Sporting Goods, about to not say I can’t do math, I’m not good at math. We’ve seen that occur for some reason among women. And to break that, to break that moving forward. And then Paula, you mentioned that you had some great conversations and you’ve heard from the women you talked to that people are looking to see how diverse companies are when they’re choosing who they’re going to work with. Gabriella pulled some stats for this episode that are pretty interesting. I’ll share them with you now. At the close of 2020, women held 7.8% of S&P 500 CEO positions, which actually grew from 2019’s 6%. So there was a bit of growth there, some progress, but obviously, we have a long way to go.

Julia Raymond Hare:
At Shoptalk, our team actually had the chance to survey the people we spoke to the female participants and there were 30 plus people who were involved in our quick survey, completely anonymous. We wanted to find out about how their position in the workforce and how being a woman has impacted their career. Here’s a little bit of what we found. Stat one. Oh, I don’t need to say stat one, sorry about that. The first question we asked was, “Do you think you had disadvantages in your career because you are a woman?” About 2/3 said yes. And about 1/3 said no. So I found that pretty interesting. Paula, Natalie, do you guys have any insight from the women you surveyed verbally as to why they answered yes or no in those cases?

Paula Macaggi:
Well, yes. Most of the women that I spoke with has said that they didn’t have any disadvantage. They were conscious that some women probably had, and they were lucky. One of them came from a big CPG brand. And she said that they always had a stimulus for women and they vetted the differences and they were always looking into helping diversity in general, since they started their careers. So I think that was a point.

Julia Raymond Hare:
Fabulous. And then Natalie, will you share the other finding that we have?

Natalie Arana:
Yeah. So we asked, “In the company you work for now, do you think men and women have the same opportunities?” So from my respondents, 77%, so about 3/4 said yes. And 23%, about 1/4 said no. We found that when we asked this question, there was a little bit of hesitation. And then also for the answer, no, we did find that a handful was dependent on the role or their department that they worked in.

Julia Raymond Hare:
So women were saying that there is opportunity in the company for both men and women, but sometimes there were variations depending on which department, it was like IT or traditional departments that are more dominated by men might not have just yet that same equal opportunity that we discussed. Paula, what’s another stat we found?

Paula Macaggi:
Well, we asked if the number of women in board seats or leadership will be a deciding factor when choosing to stay or change jobs, three-quarters of the women said yes, and the ones that said, no, it wouldn’t be the deciding factor, but that would still be a point to consider.

Julia Raymond Hare:
So those are just a handful of the findings. We thought those were very interesting. And again, to our listeners, we’re going to have those shared on our social media channels and in a recap article on our website for shop talk in the coming weeks. Gabriella, you spoke to someone we know and love here at Rethink, so I’ll let you share what your discussion was about with her.

Gabriella Bock:
Yeah, absolutely. And wow, that, that first stat of two-thirds of our respondents saying that they’ve had disadvantages in their career because they are a woman, that is an incredible number. So I spoke to Sucharita Kodali, she’s a VP principal retail analyst at Forrester, about what she thinks is holding women back from those executive roles. Sucharita said there are many hurdles that come with being a woman in business, and many of them she said are either related to motherhood or are just downright institutional. Suchurita cited the challenges working moms face, especially when it comes to the flexibility that is needed to be both a great mom and a great employee, not to mention the financial challenges of early childcare. And because of this, many women often choose to opt-out of the workforce because they simply can’t afford to pay for childcare, and even if they do, they’ll find themselves breaking even.

Gabriella Bock:
So, okay, she’s at home for a couple of years now, her child is ready to go to school and she’s ready to reenter the workforce. No problem. Right? Well, although a few years of a gap on a resume shouldn’t be a big deal, women who have to step out of the workforce when they have children are finding it difficult for them to reenter it at the same level. Sucharita also spoke to how women are perceived in the workforce. You know, I read an article in Harvard Business Review a few years ago that dove into this notion that likeability and success are often negatively correlated for women. Why is that? Women are expected to be nice and warm and friendly and nurturing, right? And let’s not act like business can’t be cutthroat. At the end of the day, this is a competitive industry and it requires a certain level of competitiveness in order to reach the top, right?

Gabriella Bock:
But here’s the kicker. High-achieving women are often judged more harshly than men, especially if we are outspoken or direct, which is a major, double standard when men are praised when they are assertive. When they assertively seal the deal, they’re go-getters, right? But when women are assertive, we’re labeled as aggressive or abrasive. Studies reported in HBR have also shown that women are more likely to receive vague feedback that is not even connected to the objectives or business outcomes, which is a major disadvantage when women are competing for job opportunities, promotions, and also just in terms of women’s professional growth and identity.

Julia Raymond Hare:
Those are some really interesting points, Gabriella, because it is an issue that’s ongoing. There is a lot of double standards that I’ve seen. I’m sure everyone on the team here being all women on the show today have seen, and it’s something that we have to change the narrative on. And I spoke with Sarah Rogowski, she’s the director of digital strategy and future experience at Lululemon Athleta, and she gave really good advice. She mentors a lot of women and she said the biggest thing that she often says is to focus on seeing yourself through the lens of others versus seeing your own criticisms. And what she meant by that was you should not be so much of a perfectionist because, for example, when men look at a job posting, if they meet some of the requirements or even a few, they feel, “Hey, I’ll learn it. I’ll get it done. I’m qualified.” Whereas women tend to feel like they need to meet every single requirement listed to even apply.

Julia Raymond Hare:
And this reminds me of a book I read, and Sheryl Sandberg, she wrote, “Lean In.” And there was a study done that showed men applied for positions if they met 60% of the requirements and women only applied if they met 100%. So there’s a big gap there in how women are perceiving themselves. It’s not even the pressure necessarily that others are putting on you, we’re stopping ourselves before we even get started, when we’re looking at opportunities. So there’s a lot of change. There’s a lot that we can improve on.

Gabriella Bock:
Absolutely, and I spoke with several women who have stated that they felt this in the workplace firsthand. There was a lot of conversation, I don’t know if you guys remember this, but about women using more punctuation than men in their emails as to not sound too harsh when they’re either asking for something from a boss or even when delegating junior-level tasks and responsibilities, which, it may seem like a non-issue to some, but what we’re talking about here is it’s a purposeful and intentional difference in the way women are choosing to communicate as to not sound too demanding.

Gabriella Bock:
Personally, I love to use exclamations in my emails. I think it’s just better to be kind and appreciative, even in business dealings, especially in business dealings. But it’s easier to attract more flies with honey or whatever the adage is, but I do think it speaks to that double standard when it comes to what is and what isn’t gender-acceptable behavior in business. So yeah, there are definitely some unconscious biases as well as many institutional barriers that have prevented more women from going after and securing those physicians at the top.

Julia Raymond Hare:
Yeah. I’ve seen those memes, Gabriella, that you’re talking about with using exclamation points specifically. That’s the one that calls out the most and I’m guilty of it, I think a lot of you guys are guilty of it. We just naturally, I guess, write that way. And I think there’s something to be said about femininity and masculinity in business because I think the latter is often way more praised, and sometimes, it does feel like even other women are pressuring the culture to be more masculine and for us to just fit in versus standing out and being who we are, more empathetic leaders, studies have shown that, which make for more profitable companies.

Julia Raymond Hare:
So I don’t agree with all the things I’ve read. There was a book that a friend gave me when I was just entering the workforce and it was called “Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office.” It’s since been updated, but I was a little taken aback because some of the recommendations were amazing in that book so I do like it, I’m not bashing the book completely, but the author did have a few that I was pretty questionable on. Not bringing food into your office, if you have an office cubicle or a corner office, whatever you have, try not to decorate it, don’t come off too feminine. And I think that’s something that our generation and future generations are really pushing back against because I don’t think we should be penalized for femininity.

Gabriella Bock:
Yeah. I mean, who wants to be in a cold environment and be hungry all the time? Not me.

Julia Raymond Hare:
Exactly. Natalie, Paula, do you have anything to add to this particular chat about expectations?

Natalie Arana:
Yeah. I definitely agree with everything you’ve both been saying. I think at the end of the day, as long as we feel like we’re being our true selves, obviously, always keeping in mind to put yourself out there and not be scared to say what you think, but if you’re acting in a way that doesn’t feel true to yourself at the end of the day, you don’t feel that good. So even if you’re a woman, maybe you speak softer, maybe you don’t speak as loud, but you’re still putting yourself out there. You’re still saying the things you believe in and giving your opinion, which is valuable because it still contributes to the team.

Paula Macaggi:
Yeah. At the beginning of my career, as I started in finance, I was definitely trying to be more masculine because I thought that was necessary. And nowadays, I’m very true with my femininity. And I think that’s like an asset actually, that I’m adding to the team and not a burden. And I think this is part of what has changed since I first started, which is not that long ago.

Julia Raymond Hare:
But there has been change and that was one of the things in the survey. And I found it interesting because even with some of the younger women we spoke to, because again, for our listeners, some of the surveys we did give verbally on the spot and some of them that who were younger did say they felt the workplace has changed, even if they’ve only been in the workforce five, 10 years. So I think we have a lot of positive change and I’m pretty optimistic in general about where the future is headed for women in the workforce. I know that, yeah. I myself have been labeled aggressive by people or intimidating. And hopefully, those labels will be turned for the positive for women who are in business. And I think that there’s a lot of good advice we got from people we spoke to at this meeting.

Julia Raymond Hare:
So we have to keep optimistic thoughts in our head. We have to be our own cheerleaders and we have to support the women who surround us. There’s more than one spot at the table. And we’ve addressed a lot of issues so far in this conversation and we all agree that there is progress being made. In fact, we surveyed the participants from Shoptalk and we asked, “Are there initiatives from your company to advance women in leadership?” And 65% said, yes.

Julia Raymond Hare:
So that’s pretty high. We were pretty happy with that response, and 87% of respondents, so almost all of them if you think about it, that’s a B+, believed that being a woman in the workplace has changed since they first started. So, and change for positive was generally the tone that the women were conveying. So we think that there’s a lot of hope for the next generation of female leaders and I’ll pass it to Gabriella for some other quotes we received.

Gabriella Bock:
Sure. So, Sucharita said, “The greatest opportunity she thought for the next generation of female leaders will be universal childcare. And fortunately, we are seeing some policy initiatives on that here in the United States. So I’m looking forward to seeing something come of that.” Otherwise, she said that women really need to be just seeking out female-friendly companies that are open to flexible lifestyles that offer more incentives for working parents. And then if not, then they need to start their own companies. We’re seeing a lot more of that, especially from the pandemic of women opening their own businesses or side hustles, internet stores. So she thinks we’ll see more of that to come.

Natalie Arana:
We also spoke with Christine Russo, she’s a digital and physical retail consultant and an advisor for RETHINK Retail. And she said that the next generation of female leaders have a great opportunity to recreate the female executive archetype. So she doesn’t need to play by the rules of those that came before her. And Christine also said that she hopes that the next generation of female leaders leave behind the gatekeeping and keep the door open behind her for others to follow. So we really are all on the same team and supporting each other is going to have the best results at the end of the day.

Gabriella Bock:
So Melodie van der Baan, she’s the co-founder and CEO of SwapRetail. She said that she believes every woman has the opportunity to rise to a senior position as long as they are unwavering in their convictions, hone their skills and speak up. And what’s more, if their leadership is not valued within a larger company, she said, “Don’t be surprised when that woman starts her own and changes her industry for the better.” Which I think Melodie can speak to. She launched her business at the start of the pandemic and it’s been going really great for her. So shout out to Melodie at SwapRetail.

Gabriella Bock:
We also spoke to Courtney Hawkins. She is the Vice President of Retail at The RealReal. She said, “Women making room for women to have a voice and a seat at the table is a start to overcoming hurdles in business.” She said, “We need to stop classifying women as emotional or aggressive. Stop the judgment of the message. Stop the judgment of the message delivery and start listening to the point of view and ideas instead.” She said, she hopes that we will figure out how to help women have it all with whatever all means to them. “Women shouldn’t have to choose between this or that, we want a career, a family, health, friends, etc. We should just be able to see business environment supporting this and just it needs to become the norm and not the exception.”

Paula Macaggi:
I spoke with Beth McNeely, the head of e-commerce at Charlotte Tilbury. And when I asked her what advice you would give for someone, for a woman that is starting to career and she said, “Be visible and present physically in a meeting room, take a seat at a table, always put your hands up. If there’s a project that comes up and that sounds really interesting, but you’re not sure you can do it, take it anyway because you’ll figure it out. You will never regret taking a challenge like that.” And that’s my favorite part of her speech. She says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Julia Raymond Hare:
Love it. It’s a great piece of advice. And I think a lot of the other women I spoke to that was definitely one of the common themes was to be brave. Don’t let the fear stop you and to get out of your comfort zone, even if that means taking on roles that are a little bit outside of your job description to enact change and improve and optimize things that are existing, that you see could be better.

Julia Raymond Hare:
Find things that could be better and help do better and be bold. To round out this episode, I’d like to share with you some advice I received from the brilliant Nikki Kaufman. She is the co-founder of Camp. She said, “It’s all about the people. Aim to hire, work for, and surround yourself with people who you trust and who are the best at what they do. Continuously find ways to, and always be open to learning and growing.” That was a really positive thing. I definitely agree with Nikki that it’s all about the people. I say that a lot. Shout out to some other women who I spoke with: Maya Mennen from swap.com, Leah Specter from Big Commerce, and Adila Cokar from The Good Tee.

Julia Raymond Hare:
If you would like to hear more about the statistics from our great survey, and some of the quotes we received from other women, you can check out our article on rethink.industries that will be going up live in the coming weeks. We hope that you follow us on social media. We’ll be posting some of those results there, if you just want to take a quick look.

Julia Raymond Hare:
Our team is also producing a special Women in Commerce series, highlighting women who are making a difference in retail and commerce. If that is you, please reach out to us. We’d love to get you involved. Or, if you are an organization highlighting women in the field, we’d love to partner with you and co-create some content as this would be relevant for your audience, as well as ours. As always, you can reach us on our website, rethink.industries. You can email us. I am Julia at rethink.industries, or you can reach anyone on the team via LinkedIn.

Julia Raymond Hare:
Once again, thank you to all the fabulous women on our team: Paula Macaggi, Natalie Arana and Gabriella Bock. Big shout out to our audio engineer, Trenton Waller. I know you are not a female, but we couldn’t produce the show without you so we appreciate your hard work.