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As we proudly take the wraps off our eighth roster of stellar Top Women in Grocery, it seems apropos to touch on two dichotomous aspects of our annual compendium of the food industry’s resident “she-roes.” The first pertains to why we choose to perpetuate a stand-alone program dedicated solely to recognizing the achievements of female food industry all-stars, followed next by our steadfast conviction of how very necessary it is to do so.
A note we received from a reader shortly after we opened the annual January call for nominations addressed the foremost issue head-on: “While there are many great people who deserve recognition for outstanding work, I firmly believe the time has come to not segregate women into a special category. Their accomplishments should stand equal to those of men in the profession. To continue with recognizing them separately does nothing to affirm their status in comparison to their male counterparts. Please consider doing away with this particular leadership recognition program, as there is nothing progressive about it.”
While we always appreciate feedback, this reader’s contribution provided an excellent opportunity for our entire staff to pause, reflect on and reaffirm the fierce pride we have for the pioneering role this publication has taken in recognizing the key parts women play across all sectors of the once male-dominated industry. Further, the exchange also allowed us to agree heartily with the observer’s notion that women’s accomplishments should indeed “stand equal to those of men in the profession.”
Indeed, while that’s the foremost goal, an objective view of the present retail food industry workforce demonstrates that much ground remains to be covered, which speaks to the principal tenet of our program’s founding mission: “Rather than dwelling on the historical gender gap in the food industry, PG’s Top Women in Grocery program aims to fulfill a far greater purpose, by celebrating the continuing progress the industry is making to close it while prominently recognizing the critical roles women serve in their companies, communities and the industry at large.”
To that end, we’re privileged to accelerate that promise with a new slate of leading ladies hailing from some of the most admired organizations in the U.S. supermarket business. With a record number of 311 watch-worthy women, our unflappable judging panel pored over hundreds of applications in search of candidates who went above and beyond their core responsibilities to deliver exceptional results, culminating in the selection of 99 Senior-level Executives, 147 Rising Stars and 65 Store Managers.
Although our winners’ profiles, which begin on page 22, contain abbreviated versions of their many integral contributions, a handful of distinct attributes characterizes the evolution of our 2014 roster, including:
- A robust representation of new participants, particularly from the retailer community, which added a dozen new organizations to those proudly showcasing their employer-of-choice initiatives
- A more dynamic demonstration of overall exceptional candidates, several of whom were integrally involved in complex mergers and acquisitions
- A marked increase in the number of digital marketing, data management and analytical leadership roles held by women
- A stronger showing of roles devoted to corporate women, diversity and sustainability initiatives
- A heightened presence of entrepreneurial applicants (i.e., founders and owners)
The incredible achievements of existing and emerging industry influencers chronicled within this issue provide an enduring portrayal of our program’s founding purpose, which ultimately aspires to embody the power of partnerships, unity, equity, connections and collaborations. These are not only the lasting keys to a healthy industry, but also to the sustained progression of women’s continued advancement.