TWIC Talk With Conexxus' Jenny Bullard
NATIONAL REPORT — Now in its sixth year, the Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program has recognized more than 200 of the best and brightest women making a positive impact on not only the companies they work for, but also the entire convenience retail channel.
TWIC is the only program that recognizes exceptional female leaders, rising stars and mentors among retailer, supplier and distributor firms in the convenience store industry, from the C-suite to the store level to the independent entrepreneur.
In TWIC Talk, our bimonthly Q&A series, we interview a past TWIC winner about what it's like to be a female leader in the convenience store industry today — the opportunities, the challenges — and get their words of wisdom for up-and-comers seeking to blaze their own trail.
This month’s TWIC Talk subject is Jenny Bullard, former chief information officer at Flash Foods and now manager of member engagement at Conexxus, a nonprofit organization dedicated to standards, technology innovation and advocacy for the convenience industry. In 2015, Bullard was one of the five women celebrated by TWIC as Women of the Year.
How would you describe the current state of affairs for gender equality in the convenience store industry? How does this compare to 10 years ago?
As I attend conferences around our industry, the equality of men to women attending these events is much closer. As more women become part of this industry, they have been challenged and excited about what they can accomplish for their companies. Seeing examples of women in the retail segment who have been able to grow and be recognized makes the challenge worthwhile and attainable.
What is the most positive change you have personally witnessed?
Positive change has been the recognition of women at all levels in the c-store industry. In my career, I have had the privilege to work alongside some remarkable women. Many of those were store-level employees who are at the heart of making a difference in the profitability and success of a company. As I attend the Convenient Store News TWIC recognition reception each year, I am grateful and excited to see more and more store-level management women being honored.
Along your career path, did you personally experience gender bias or inequality? If so, how did you overcome?
Working for many years in this industry, I was one of the first females in our company to be part of the executive team, which at that time was predominately male. This executive team represented all departments in the company — marketing, finance, operations, etc. To overcome and earn the group’s respect, my goal was to gain knowledge about all aspects of the company and be able to contribute to each department’s goals. This became a path of understanding that ran both ways. By listening and learning from other executives at the table, I was able to gain their respect as a contributor to the overall success of our company and along the way, it became a mutual understanding and respect from me to learn and understand the challenges that each of them faced in their positions.
What barriers to advancement do you see still existing in the c-store industry?
Today, no barriers. If you have the passion to learn and accept the challenge of working in the retail environment, the advancement for career opportunities will be there.
What is your advice for other industry women looking to rise to higher ranks?
Perseverance — this has been my “go-to state of mind” in my career. Certainly don’t give up, learn from the experiences good or bad, and continue to contribute your best to the job at hand and the future. Most importantly, find a mentor in your company or the industry to share your thoughts and experiences. The encouragement from this mentor will give you the courage and grit needed to be successful and excel in your career.