Retail Opens Doors for Women in the Workforce

Today, you may see many women wearing red to commemorate National Equal Pay Day. Recognizing the contributions made by women in the workforce is an important step towards changing our national dialogue. As our nation focuses on bridging the gender pay gap, it’s important to highlight the great strides industries like retail are making in creating opportunity and success for women in today’s working world.

As the nation’s second largest private sector employer, the retail industry supports over 42 million American jobs, over 50 percent of which are held by women. From supply chain to store to c-suite, retail’s reach is wide. We take pride in leading the way in career training, wage growth, workforce development, and innovation for women of all backgrounds and skill levels.

Catalyst, a leading nonprofit organization with a mission to accelerate progress for women in the workplace, found that women make up 41 percent of first/mid-level managers and over 30 percent of executive leadership in retail.

Last week, Gap Inc. headed to Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of advancing women in the workforce and highlight its record of gender pay equality. In a hearing before the Republican Policy Committee, Gap Inc. executive Debbie Maples, shared her own success story and the story of her company’s commitment to promoting women within their ranks. Over 47 percent of Gap Inc.’s CEO executive leadership team and 68 percent of store managers are women. As the first Fortune 500 company to announce equal pay for equal work in 2014, Gap Inc. provided its methodology and data to a leading a gender and diversity firm, which validated the company’s findings. As a result, Gap Inc. has committed to conducting an annual internal pay equality review using this approved methodology.

Gap Inc. is just one of many retailers supporting women in the workforce. Wal-Mart, along with nine consumer-focused corporations, announced their partnership to source from certified women-owned businesses over the next five years. In its announcement Wal-Mart president and CEO Doug McMillon said, “We believe supporting women-owned businesses helps us put innovative products on our shelves while helping these businesses thrive and grow.” Wal-Mart has also helped fund the creation of the “Women-Owned” logo which certified women-owned suppliers can utilize at any retailer to showcase their products to consumers.

Retail is the training ground for women in the workforce. There are countless success stories of women who have turned their retail first job into life-long careers. Take for example Ann-Marie Campbell. Ann-Marie began her career at The Home Depot in 1985 as a cashier in South Florida and is now the executive vice president of The Home Depot’s U.S. Stores. From her first retail job she now leads the company’s three U.S. operating divisions comprised of nearly 2,000 U.S. stores and the bulk of the company’s nearly 400,000 associates.

These are only a few of the countless examples of retail opening doors for women. Whether women are stepping into the workforce, seeking a leg up, or establishing a long-lasting career, America’s retail industry is offering more jobs and career opportunity to women than virtually any other.

Sandy Kennedy is the President of the Retail Industry Leaders Association

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