How Altria Champions the Advancement of Women
RICHMOND, Va. — Nearly every convenience store retailer is aware of Altria, the nation’s largest tobacco company with its products on the backbars of nearly every retailer’s stores. Fewer, though, are probably aware of the leading role the company plays in promoting the development and advancement of women in two very male-dominated businesses — tobacco and convenience retailing.
In 2012, Altria Group Distribution Co.’s (AGDC) leadership team had an organization strategy session to discuss creating a more robust pipeline for women leaders. At the time, parent company Altria Group had a Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) called the Altria Women’s Network consisting mostly of headquarters people in Richmond, but felt opportunities were lacking for getting sales participation because of the nationally far-flung sales network, explained Danielle Keck, AGDC’s senior director of sales infrastructure and cofounder of the company’s Women in Sales Network (WSN).
The idea for the Women in Sales Network started with exposure to the Network of Executive Women (NEW), the retail and consumer goods organization dedicated to advancing women in the workplace. April Drummond, who cofounded WSN with Keck, went to her first NEW Summit in 2012 and couldn’t believe Altria wasn’t already a member.
“This is a fantastic organization that is championing this cause — and best of all, our customers are also members,” Drummond reported back to her company.
Shortly thereafter, WSN was born and today is the largest of Altria’s nine ERGs. Other ERGs focus on women in manufacturing, veterans, and specific ethnic groups.
“I personally have grown as a result of having to build and lead this network,” Keck told Convenience Store News in an exclusive interview. “It has enhanced my D&I (diversity and inclusion) skills and made me a better leader.”
Keck has taken on multiple new roles and said she’s gained a wider perspective on differences in people and the advantages of diverse teams since she took on the challenge of building the Women in Sales Network.
“I have also helped other ERGs overcome challenges as they have gotten started,” she added. “It has been personally rewarding to help other leaders as they forge new networks.”
The mission of the Women in Sales Network is to be the catalyst for the development and advancement of women at AGDC. It is founded on the following principles:
- Developing Leaders
- Improving Connectivity
- Fostering Inclusion
- Providing Accessible and Relevant Programs
- Leverage Our Diverse Perspectives
- Advocating Change
The focus is on fostering career growth through professional development, collaboration and knowledge sharing, and identifying and addressing issues impacting women in sales.
Since being formally established in April 2013, WSN has grown to 849 total members, with an astounding 32 percent of them male.
For more on Altria’s Women in Sales Network, look in the October issue of Convenience Store News. Altria is the founding and presenting sponsor of CSNews’ annual Top Women in Convenience awards program.