Each year, local brands across the Ahold Delhaize international network of grocery retailers hold individual presentations, panels and even celebrations to mark March 8, known around the world as International Women's Day. This year, the company of 370,000 associates worldwide stepped it up a notch, live-streaming a multi-faceted webcast and half-day event hosted by Deputy CEO and Chief Integration Officer Frans Muller, and Chief Human Resources Officer at Ahold Delhaize, Abbe Luersman, from Stop & Shop in Quincy, Mass., which was viewed at respective brand headquarters, including locally at Food Lion in Salisbury, N.C.
"International Women's Day is about recognizing the differences and about driving the change," Luersman began as she and Muller discussed what the day's event would cover.
The agenda was comprehensive, and not only touched on a range of subjects from workplace statistics, those the company is proud of, and those our executives acknowledge need work, to author and self-proclaimed "perspirational" speaker Carol Seymour, who encourages hard work, tough questions and "wisdom sharing" to put talk into action and build women up in the workplace, to a panel of Ahold Delhaize women who told their stories and took real-time questions from audiences at all satellite locations. The day was nothing short of powerful, motivating and a show of strength and further change for the company and its associates alike.
Women in Our Workforce
President and CEO Dick Boer formally kicked off the event with a special message, commending Carol Seymour's book, "Wisdom Warriors," proudly showcasing 200 Ahold Delhaize women across all of its brands and which were made available to every associate with the advice to share your own wisdom with a mentee and to find your own mentor.
Boer quoted Seymour in her book when he shared the reality, "Women are wisdom warriors. They know better than anyone how to pass along wisdom from woman to woman, from mother to daughter, only we don’t do it enough."
Muller went on to discuss the many diversity and inclusion partnerships throughout the company, such as with the Leading Executives Advancing Diversity (LEAD) in Amsterdam and Network of Executive Women (NEW) in the United States, expanding on Ahold Delhaize's four-piece diversity and inclusion strategy, but no doubt made the strongest case with a single statement.
“Our executive committee doesn’t need a report to do the right thing,” Muller shared with the audiences, citing the many reports which prove diversity and inclusion is good for business. "We will run a better business linked to a diverse workplace."
And, while the committee may not need statistics to know how important a diverse workplace is, some statistics were still compelling enough to share during the presentation.
Of Ahold Delhaize's 370,000 associates, 53 percent of the entire workforce is female. At Food Lion, that percentage is 49 percent. However, when you look to the top, female presence on executive committee drops to one of nine members, and to just two of 12 members of the supervisory board.
"We must do some work to improve this," Muller shared, while, Luersman added she was “proud that we are recognizing this so we can begin to drive the change.”
Shifting to shopper demographics, it may not surprise many that 76 percent are women. However, did you know the expected female spending power in 2025 is $28 trillion? Yes, ladies and gentleman, that's trillion, with a "t!"
Wisdom Warriors and Bringing Your "A-Game"
Next, the local and satellite audiences were privileged to hear from Carol Seymour herself, author of the previously mentioned book "Wisdom Warriors," to gain some insights from Seymour's company Signature Leaders on how to “Bring Your A-Game.”
Speaking first to her book, Seymour shared what most of us know but don’t act on: someone else knows what you don’t know; wisdom is experience shared. With this in mind, she begged the question; who are you? What do you bring? What is your foundational gift? And, as we all sat in the audience thinking to ourselves, how in the world to we figure that out if we don’t already know? Not to worry, she gets to this.
One of our favorite points from Seymour is that if you can’t show up in your environment as who you really are, you can’t bring your "A-game." So many women (and men) live in what Seymour refers to as the land of "ER." Someone will always be smart-er. Strong-er. Insert-er. But, what is the brand of you, and how do you figure this out? Cue, "the gift exercise."
The Gift Exercise
1. Split a piece of paper in half and write high value/high energy on the left. These are your gifts and passion (not simply your strengths).
2. Write low value/low energy on the right. These are things that drain your energy and you do not enjoy.
3. Track and journal for 30 days to find patterns. Ultimately, you will discover your gifts, which drive your brand and help you bring you’re A-game.
Seymour ended with an ode to the importance of self-care, something most of us slack on with increased hours at work and pressure to succeed. Seymour says this is an absolute mistake, and we love her pro-tip:
"How you treat yourself is how you invite the world to treat you, she explains. It only takes 20 seconds to put recovery into your day. Remember, powerful women lead life intentionally."
Prompted by the Panel
The live steam ended with some powerful questions for a few wonderful women who represent several Ahold Delhaize brands, including Dawn Perry, vice president of business and regulatory law at Retail Business Services, Stacy Wiggins, senior vice president of operations and sales at Stop & Shop and Kerri Aguilo, senior vice president of category management (non-perishable) at Stop & Shop.
Due to the large number of questions, we captured one here which we felt addressed some of the most common concerns of women in the workplace, and some great advice.
Q. How can we promote women internally and externally?
Advice from the panel:
“We can learn a lot from unconscious bias,” Muller added here. "70 percent of managers in our company are males. We must work to ensure we understand women the way they need to be understood. Otherwise, you can miss opportunities. We must provide interest, respect and listen.”
Most importantly, Seymour reminds us all that no matter who we are, what we look like, or what our gender, "you are who you are; stay true to who you are."
Following the broadcast, each local brand closed out its International Women's Day celebration with on-site events and activations. At Food Lion, The Women's Business Resource Group (WBRG) held an expo from 10 until 12 p.m. with refreshments and hosted local women-run companies showcasing products and services made available to associates.