LAS VEGAS — More than ever before, female leaders are making their mark on the convenience store industry, the companies they work for and the people they mentor, leaving all of them better off. This was more than evident during Convenience Store News' 2022 Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) Awards Gala, held Oct. 2 at the Renaissance Las Vegas following day two of the 2022 NACS Show.
The ninth-annual event featured a record-breaking 91 honorees, as well as a record-breaking, sold-out crowd in attendance at the awards ceremony. The honorees were selected from an extremely competitive pool of nominees based on their innovative corporate initiatives, extraordinary financial and strategic accomplishments, astute problem-solving acumen, exceptional performance, mentorship work and selfless charitable participation, along with other attributes that went above and beyond the call of duty.
Paula Lashinsky, vice president and brand director for Convenience Store News, noted that this year's honorees distinguished themselves in ways that go beyond achievements that can be neatly listed on paper.
"While this year's nominations were replete with details of individual accomplishments — the 'whats' — it was the 'hows' that were so impressive," she said. "The descriptions of how these women used innovation, inspiration, motivation and empathy to shape and grow the convenience store channel."
The 2022 TWIC class includes five Women of the Year, 36 Senior-Level Leaders, 40 Rising Stars and 10 Mentors. Featured speaker and 7-Eleven Inc. President and CEO Joe DePinto addressed this largest-ever group of award winners during his remarks.
"You are an extraordinary, talented and diverse group of leaders, and these awards underscore your dedication and your commitment to your businesses and this industry," he said. "You should be extremely proud of all that you've accomplished, and I can tell you that we certainly are."
DePinto reflected on how things have changed from the start of his career, when the c-store industry didn't have many women in leadership roles who could positively influence their organizations and the industry at large.
"Take a look at this room. Look around," he said. "We do now. Congratulations."
WORDS OF WISDOM FROM WOMEN OF THE YEAR
The 2022 TWIC Women of the Year are Holly Angell, senior vice president of construction, engineering & facilities, 7-Eleven Inc.; Allison Cornish, vice president of store modernization, Pilot Co.; Danielle Holloway, senior director of industry engagement, Altria Group Distribution Co.; Julie Jackson, president, G&M Oil Co.; and Colette Matthews, global vice president of customer experience, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K.
Woman of the Year Julie Jackson
Upon receiving her award, Angell described how "team is the heart of everything that I do for convenience retail," and that she is both proud to be among the TWIC winners and grateful that she can help lift other women in the industry.
She noted that in the world of construction, engineering and facilities, women are not always expected to be there, but she is excited to see how the industry has changed so that all types of leaders can have a place in it.
"I like to be a champion of that and an example of that," she said. "I know you are also champions of that."
Cornish expressed how much "I absolutely love this business," and advised up-and-coming leaders to travel and spend time in different stores while learning about different roles. One can't learn or lead a business unless they go out to experience it and spend time with those who live it every day, she said.
She also encouraged attendees to step out of their comfort zones. "I sincerely believe you can only grow when you're challenged and uncomfortable," she said.
Holloway reflected on a time a decade ago when she was hesitant to lead an employee resource group (ERG) for women when her company's CEO asked her to; an inner voice was telling her it was a bad idea. With the persistence of her boss, she stepped forward despite her doubts and launched the ERG, created additional leadership experiences, developed content for members, and paved the way for her eventual successors.
She also worked to control her inner voice, who Holloway jokingly named Renée. "Now, she cheers me on," she said. "She's not a voice of doubt."
Holloway advised attendees to "check on your inner Renée, make sure he or she is supporting you, and ask what you can do to support others."
Jackson highlighted the difference that people can make to someone else's career path, expressing appreciation for those who encouraged her and gave her opportunities, but also pushed her, challenged her and gave her honest feedback. This makes it all the more important that leaders surround themselves with the best people.
"It's important to be resilient and present with what you're doing," she said.
She encouraged other women to take risks, ask questions, and learn everything they can. They should evolve and change, but ultimately stay true to themselves.
"Always be your authentic self — there's no one else like you," Jackson said. "Be the best 'you' you can be."
Matthews shared a lesson taught to her by her grandmother: Anything is possible if she acts continuously to make it so. She acknowledged that while inequities continue to exist, real progress is being made and brave leaders, activist allies, meaningful mentorships and audacious corporate mandates can make a significant difference in having more women present at every level of leadership.
"It is crucial to build the necessary infrastructure to support and drive change," she said.
Matthews pledged to continue working to help the c-store industry move from dreams of equality to a reality in which it exists, and asked audience members to do the same — to work individually and with their respective companies and the industry at large to make it so.
"I recruit you, you and you," she said. "Let's do this together."
Supporters of the 2022 Top Women in Convenience program include: founding and presenting sponsor Altria Group Distribution Co.; platinum sponsors ITG Brands, PepsiCo Inc. and Reynolds Marketing Services Co.; gold sponsors BIC USA, The Boston Beer Co., The Coca-Cola Co., The Hershey Co., Juul Labs, Mars Wrigley, McLane Co. Inc., Molson Coors Beverage Co., Mondelēz International, Proctor & Gamble, Swedish Match and Tyson Convenience; and silver sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev, Constellation Brands, Diageo, FIFCO USA, Glanbia Performance Nutrition, Premier Manufacturing Inc. and Ruiz Food Products.