IRVING, Texas — 7-Eleven Inc. takes its leadership position in the convenience store industry seriously, particularly when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
"As the recognized industry leader, we have a responsibility to accelerate diversity, equity and inclusion at 7-Eleven. Given today's marketplace and the incredibly diverse makeup of the customers we serve, it's not only the right thing to do, it's a business imperative," said Treasa Bowers, senior vice president of human resources and Women's DE&I and Belonging at the Irving-based convenience store chain.
7-Eleven's commitment to DEI plays a role in retaining top talent while also developing and promoting the best people, according to Larry Hughes, vice president of corporate human resources and DE&I.
"We can't take full advantage of our human capital potential unless we leverage the power of DE&I across the business," he explained.
Making diversity part of its company culture also aligns with the retailer's ability to innovate. "A significant contributor to 7-Eleven's success has been our ability to innovate and anticipate the needs of customers," Hughes said. "In order for us to continue to lead and grow, we must have a workforce — including leadership — that is as diverse as the people and neighborhoods we serve. The research that connects diversity with customer-focused innovation is both compelling and nearly indisputable."
7-Eleven's DEI journey follows three guiding principles:
It will be intentional;
It will be authentic to its brand and values; and
It will be transparent.
Any organization cannot find success without making DEI part of its culture, Hughes noted, which may be easier said than done.
"One of the biggest challenges facing large organizations today is the fact that building equitable and inclusive environments with diverse workforces is not just about systems and processes, it's also about culture. And no matter where you work, culture can be difficult to change," Hughes said. "Culture change requires understanding and commitment at every level within the enterprise, as well as consistent education and communication to share the DE&I strategy, business case, and desired outcomes that reinforce the changes we seek."
And change cannot happen without strong leaders, Bowers added. "Every employee has a key role to play, but it can't happen without leaders walking the walk. At 7-Eleven, we are fortunate to have strong support and advocacy starting with our CEO and throughout the broader executive leadership team, which sets the tone for prioritizing and resourcing this work," she said.
An Ongoing Journey
7-Eleven is proud of its accomplishments to date, but the nation's largest c-store operator views DEI as a journey without an end destination.
The company's initial efforts were focused on building awareness and understanding around cultural fluency and inclusive behavior. Now, 7-Eleven is turning more of its attention to data and metrics because, as Bowers pointed out, "what gets measured gets done."
"This is critical to offering associates a great place to work where everyone can contribute their unique perspectives and talents, and providing more opportunities for women, people of color and veterans to start their own businesses as franchisees," she said. "While we are heartened by our progress, meaningful change requires us to continue to listen, learn and grow as we continue on the journey."
According to Bowers, 2021 was an inflection point for making significant headway in weaving DEI into the organization's fabric. During the year, 7-Eleven ran several DEI education campaigns celebrating myriad cultures and groups, with extensive participation from its associate business resource groups and leaders.
In addition, the retailer finalized longer-term DEI priorities and metrics based on the company's business needs and broader ESG (environmental, social and governance) strategy, which is key to ensure both programs are integrated and bolstering one another.
Moving forward, 7-Eleven will continue to expand the reach of its cultural fluency programs and further accelerate the growth and impact of its associate business resource groups, according to Hughes. The organization is also expanding its educational offerings for both leaders and associates.
"We've had great feedback on our existing offerings and, given our expanded workforce, we have an opportunity to touch more people than ever before," he said. "The goal is to further integrate the levers of DE&I within our business and culture across the 7-Eleven family of brands.
"Outside of 7-Eleven, we are actively engaging with industry and even non-industry partners to share best practices and figure out how we can continue to move the needle not just at 7-Eleven, but across the entire retailing landscape," Hughes added.