Industry leaders share diversity efforts in DSN webinar

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Industry leaders share diversity efforts in DSN webinar


Diverse, transparent and inclusive teams are all essential in the retail environment, according to a panel of key mass retailers and industry officials at a webinar conducted by Drug Store News yesterday. The webinar, “High Performing Organizations Are Centered in Diversity & Inclusion,” was moderated by Dan Mack, managing director of Mack Elevation. John Kenlon, DSN publisher, and five panelists, including retail officials from Walgreens, Target and Wakefern, discussed the importance of creating and protecting inclusive, culturally competent and empathetic organizations.

The webinar can be accessed here.

Leading off the discussion Mack said that everyone suffers from biases and looks at the world through the lens of how they grew up. “We are often drawn to people with a similar story,” he noted. “But everyone has a story. The best organizations bring together diverse stories. The highest performing cultures embrace a special blend of cultural and cognitive diversity. Inclusive cultures thrive, have an impact, and they deliver. Our history, families, life experiences, and mentors in our past shape our world view.”

Commenting on what experience formed his leadership philosophy around inclusion, Carlos Cubia, vice president-global chief diversity officer for Walgreens Boots Alliance, said it all begins with wanting to create a better world for his children so that they do not have the same challenges and roadblocks that he had navigating the corporate world and academia. “My philosophy is to create a better space for those three individuals,” he said.

Cubia added that what shaped him was an experience selling financial services products to municipalities as a vice president of sales for Detroit-based financial services products. “I had four of the highest quality sales reps, four white men,” he noted. “When they went to Detroit to sell, they came back empty-handed. They were good, but they didn’t understand the market. I proposed a diversity sales leadership program to diversify the team — not to get rid of the four-star white men, but so they could partner and create an environment. That year we hit 66% of our goal. It was a good move for business; it also gave us a connection to the community.”

Brian Owens, Kantar’s senior vice president of retail, said that what influenced his personal leadership philosophy around inclusion was a strong family that pushed him to excel. “When you think about the diversity that foundation allowed me to go into areas which typically black people can’t do. There’s a lot of messages I grew up hearing, and when put in situations I performed better. Inclusion, accepting people’s strengths is a way to be inclusive,” he said.

Chris Skyers, vice president at Own Brands for Wakefern, said that his upbringing on the island of Jamaica inspired his leadership. “I was raised by a village. I grew up understanding that life was bigger than me. When I came to the states I found being associated with teams was very meaningful. Surround yourself with good people and treat everyone how you want to be treated. My goal is to affect the organization with kindness. How you treat others and being a genuine nice person is the first thing,” Skyers said.

Lisa Roath, vice president of essentials for Target, said the sense of bringing your whole sense to the workplace is critical. “I’ve been perceived as being too quiet in different points of my career but I’m listening. It’s important to foster an environment where teams can bring their whole selves to the workplace. The more I can share ways in which I fail, and crack that open, makes it easier for people on my team to do that same thing,” she said.

Finally, Bob Ford, director of sales at Olly, said that inclusion begins with a homework assignment for all people interviewing for jobs. “We want everyone to feel authentic,” he said. “The ability to build very strong teams, we encourage transparency. We want to make sure everyone has fun and there’s mutual chemistry to be unique and themselves.”

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