By Meg Major
As we went to press with this issue, we had the immense pleasure of personally celebrating with more than 100 of our 2012 Top Women in Grocery honorees at our annual gala awards event, which was an absolute joy from start to finish.
As I briefly stepped back to case the caliber of remarkable women in our midst on a crisp November evening at the InterContinental Chicago O'Hare, I couldn't help but marvel at how very fortunate our entire industry is to count them as its own. As the other 200 attendees on hand for the gala can readily attest, our honored guests collectively represented the consummate balance of professional leaders, unsung heroines, community servants and remarkable role models that we aspired to bring to the forefront when we originally established this awards program nearly seven years ago.
Instead of dwelling on the lingering gender gap in the food industry, particularly in the executive offices of most grocery organizations, our Top Women in Grocery awards program serves a very unique purpose, which is to mark – indeed celebrate – the ongoing strides to close it while prominently recognizing the critical roles each of our wonderful women play in an industry that touches each and every Americans' lives in some way or another on daily basis.
To be sure, our annual gala was a very special evening, and one that was made even more so with the first-ever Trailblazer Award, which we initiated in tandem with the Network of Executive Women (NEW) to pay tribute annually to a single food industry executive whose leadership, vision and influence have had profound influences on blazing new trails for women in the retail food industry.
And we couldn't have chosen a more suitable inaugural recipient than The Kroger Co.'s group VP of corporate affairs, Lynn Marmer.
As Kroger's first female officer, Marmer serves on the Cincinnati-based retailer's executive management team and oversees a broad and diverse scope of responsibilities, including corporate sustainability, external communications, social responsibility, media relations, government, community and consumer affairs, and corporate contributions on behalf of The Kroger Foundation.
A staunch supporter of PG's Top Women in Grocery award program since its inception and a vigorous advocate of NEW's mission and admirable programs to develop women leaders, Marmer has been a true architect of change in the food industry and is overwhelmingly deserving of this very special award of recognition from PG and NEW.
Testifying to Marmer's tireless efforts to advance women through the ranks at the nation's leading supermarket chain and her ardent commitment to advance worthwhile causes on behalf of the company – particularly its foremost goal to alleviate food insecurity facing one in six Americans – Kroger's chairman and CEO, David Dillon, says, "When I look at identifying a single woman across all of America who's made a difference in our industry, our company and communities that we serve, Lynn would be my top choice."
Rightly partial, as well he should be, Dillon characterizes Marmer as "the steward of Kroger's reputation" in countless local communities from coast to coast, while conveying his deep admiration for her tireless work "to roll out our ideas and programs at the division-level that touch many, many millions of lives."
For her part, Marmer – who credits both of her business-owner grandmothers for imparting by osmosis their guidance and wisdom as working women in the 1950s – is unabashed in her passion about playing a part in "an amazing and wonderful industry...that connects the hearts and tummies of our customers, about 80 percent of which are women."
Likewise powered by a workforce where roughly half the jobs are held by women, albeit only 14 percent of which presently serve in executive leadership roles, Marmer – who graciously accepted our first-ever Trailblazer award on behalf of all the women throughout the industry – believes, "This is a perfect industry for women to have a leadership role." But, she adds, there remains a strong need for "a call to action to recruit, retain, develop and promote women as leaders."
Let there be no doubt that David Dillon speaks for all of us when he says, "We're all really proud of Lynn."
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