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Women have risen and retailing is better for it

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It’s not customary for a publication to tout the editorial relevance of a sister publication, one authored under the same editorial staff. It’s neither customary nor wise. Such praise, most journalists believe, is best left to an outside authority or, at the least, to a supposedly impartial observer.

Still, every so often, an article appears that cries out for praise or, at least, an opinion. The feeling here is that such a story was recently published in MMR, sister publication of Chain Drug Review. The story in question appeared in the June 21 issue of MMR. Its title: “Mass Market Retailing’s Most Influential Women.”

As background, it is no longer a secret that, in the U.S. business community, the accomplishments of women have come to obscure those of the opposite sex. Examples abound of the impact women have exerted, and continue to exert, on business in America. Fortunately for U.S. retailing, that impact is felt more dramatically on the American retail community than in perhaps any other segment of U.S. business.

Grasping this phenomenon, the editors of MMR assembled an article about these women — who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and what they contribute, every day, to the U.S. retailing business segment.

The story profiles 54 of these women, though the list could have been far larger had the editors had more time to devote to the achievements women have come to attain in U.S. retailing. And in fact the article is little more than a list of women who especially are standout performers either for their retail companies or for the broader retailing community. As is to be expected, the largest U.S. retailers are represented by more senior staffers than their smaller counterparts, simply because larger companies obviously offer women more opportunities. So it is that the roster of overachieving women has a strong showing by Target (with nine women on the list); Walmart, Walgreens and WBA, and CVS Health (each with seven representatives); as well as Rite Aid (5) and Hy-Vee (5).

But the complete roster is diverse and remarkably complete. So it is that such grocery retailers as Albertsons, Meijer and Kroger are represented, as are Dollar General and Ulta. Sam’s Club is represented as well, further testament to the women power of parent company Walmart. Nor has the wider retailing world been neglected: FMI CEO Leslie Sarasin is prominently among those included.

But the bigger point here is not about the individuals on the list. Rather, it is about the list itself — and what it represents. A short generation ago, the role, and place, of women within the mass retail community was the subject of much debate. Never mind that women constitute by far the largest group of customers the mass retail community serves. Never mind that, if it weren’t for female shoppers, there would likely be no U.S. retail community — or, at the least, no community nearly as larger and as embracing as the U.S. retail community of the early years of the 21st century.

But the most salient aspect of all this attention being paid to women in the American retailing community is no mere condescension. Women are not mere placeholders in the organization charts of U.S. retailers, put into their jobs until more worthy candidates (read that as “men”) come along. They have earned their positions because of the days and weeks and hours they have invested in their ability, in themselves and in the companies for which they work. Along the way, they have nobly suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. They have been bullied, picked on, discriminated against, beaten up mentally and emotionally. Yet here they are.

One final point: This list is not, as one might have expected in another time or another place, limited to the White American community. No. Women of Color are well represented — not because of the color of their skin but for the wealth and meaningfulness of their ­contributions.

In other words, U.S. retailing today is better because these 54 women — and others too numerous to mention — are an integral part of it.


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