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The NEW women

Men are from Mars. Canada's food industry could use more Venus

This is a man’s world,” James Brown moaned in his 1966 hit. And back then, it really was. Times, of course, have changed, but a scan of the top jobs in grocery and consumer packaged goods suggests it’s still largely a man’s world.

Too bad. Women account for more than 70 per cent of all CPG purchases. “Your workforce should represent the people you are serving, and we don’t see diversity in the people moving up the hierarchy at the rate you’d expect,” notes Wendy Cukier, founder of the Diversity Institute in Management and Technology at Ryerson University in Toronto.

To help, there’s the Network of Executive Women (NEW). The group is hoping to attract more women to retail and consumer packaged goods; and keep them working in the industry as they move up the corporate ladder.

NEW Canada’s mission is anchored around three pillars: dialogue, inclusion and a catalyst for development, says Karen Young, NEW’s regional co-chair of programs, whose day job is general manager at NestlĂ© Waters “[NEW] is about inclusion as opposed to being speci cally about women,” she says. “[It] challenges the status quo, providing a means for important dialogue around critical issues and opportunities we’re all facing.”

NEW isn’t entirely, well, new. It was launched in the U.S. a decade ago, where it now has 15 chapters and 3,000 members. The Canadian office is the first outside of America. “Our vision is to have three or four regional groups within Canada: central, eastern, western and a Quebec chapter,” says Michelle Scott, executive director of the Grocery Foundation and NEW’s regional co-chair of logistics.

So far Walmart Canada has been a big supporter, and Canada Safeway recently signed up as well. At NEW Canada, companies will have an opportunity to participate through a variety of diffierent regional committee and subcommittee roles, says its communications committee lead, Gabriella Nobrega.

A benchmarking survey to gather insights on leadership and the challenges affecting women in retail and CPG has been launched with Deloitte. A report is expected by the end of this year. (Go to https://surveys.deloitte.ca/checkbox/NewCanada.aspx to do the survey.)

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