March 8 is International Women's Day, and the theme is #BalanceforBetter. But in the world of retail, where women drive 70-80% of U.S. consumer purchasing, the role of women is critical 365 days a year. Without gender balance in leadership roles, retailers may be missing out on the best solutions and insights. Research by groups including Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Gartner, and others has shown that companies with a more balanced proportion of women in board and executive roles have higher valuations, better returns on equity, and higher payout ratios.
RILA is helping retailers address these gaps. Last year, we launched the Retail Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, led by CEOs like RILA chairman and Target CEO Brian Cornell and other top executives from leading retailers, to unify the industry's commitment to a diverse workforce that reflects its customers. These retail leaders have been leveraging member companies' current work in diversity and inclusion, while developing new tools and resources tailored to retailers' unique needs. The initiative has had a busy first year and is already making great strides in deepening D&I engagement across companies.
RILA has a long history of strengthening the role of women in the retail industry. Last week, at LINK2019, RILA's Retail Supply Chain Conference, we marked 11 years of RILA's Women in Supply Chain Network (WISC). For over a decade, WISC has sought to provide networking, educational and professional development opportunities for women in the retail supply chain field, via events, resources, and industry partnerships.
At LINK2019, women executives expanded their networks and shared common challenges at a dedicated reception, amidst innovative solution provider exhibits in the Expo Experience hall. The conference featured a joint session with AWESOME (Achieving Women's Excellence in Supply Chain Operations, Management and Education), where female and male executives discussed 15 actionable ways to achieve more balanced representation in retail leadership. In retail supply chain, recruiting and retaining top talent is consistently a primary challenge—and a frequent topic among the 30+ breakout and main stage sessions at LINK2019.
WISC is already laying the groundwork for activities at LINK2020 (February 23-26 in Dallas), but RILA's other communities have big plans for the rest of 2019. Next: RILA's industry-leading Retail Asset Protection Conference (May 5-8 in Denver) will feature additional sessions and opportunities for women—and men—in retail asset protection to ensure their organizations represent the diversity of the 21st Century workforce.
RILA is excited to launch this important initiative and invite you to join us on our journey. If you are interested in participating, contact us to learn more: