2020 was a strange year: frightening, chaotic and full of disruption, both professionally and personally. At times, just making it through the day felt like a tremendous victory.
Yet the industry did more than just make it through. Retailers, brands and marketers pivoted to adapt to shifting priorities and rapid changes in shopper behavior. Among them was a group of inspiring women deserving of recognition for continuing to innovate even in such a challenging environment.
Having the honor of shining the metaphorical spotlight on these women during the Path to Purchase Institute’s Women of Excellence Awards ceremony in November was one of my personal bright spots of 2020. I’m also kicking off the new year on a high note as this column is not only a personal milestone in my career – the first time, after serving as an Institute editor for more than a decade, that I get to address our readers here directly – but it also marks the first time in the history of the magazine that a woman has penned the Editor’s Note.
There has been no better time to empower women, because while no person escaped the effects of the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that rocked the world, women have borne the brunt of COVID-19, a crisis that exacerbated issues that are centuries old for both single women and partnered women, for mothers and women without children, for women now working at home and those still braving a commute.
The United Nations published a paper in April asserting that the novel coronavirus is having devastating social and economic consequences for women nationwide. This is largely due to existing inequalities in the workforce, in access to healthcare, and even in the home.
These losses and casualties are threatening to undo years of gender progress. The annual “Women in the Workplace” study from LeanIn.org and consulting firm McKinsey & Co. indicates at least one in four women were considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether last year because of COVID-19. This marked the first time in six years of the annual report that the researchers found evidence of women intending to leave their jobs at higher rates than men.
Losing women in the workplace, especially senior-level women, could have devastating implications for women at all stages in their careers as well as for business results for organizations as a whole. Senior-level women tend to have a positive impact on company culture and are more likely than senior-level men to advocate for both gender and racial equality in the workforce. And a diverse workforce is an innovative workforce – something we all really need to keep up today.
So, it is critically important that we retain our women leaders.
I believe the gathering of women, and certainly business leaders such as those we honored during the Women of Excellence Awards ceremony, is how we’re going to make a difference and change the paradigm – by showing up, sharing our stories and putting our heads and hearts together to work toward true equality. I’m thankful to our industry for stepping up and ensuring our women leaders are seen, heard and recognized – and thankful to them for paving the way for the women who come after them.
And that is what the Women of Excellence Awards are all about: women excelling in leadership and lifting other women up as well, because if you excel only for yourself then you aren’t truly achieving your full potential.