TWIC Talk With Ruiz Food Products' Kimberli Carroll
NATIONAL REPORT — Now in its fifth year, the Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program has recognized 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 new 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 challenges, the opportunities — and get their words of wisdom for up-and-comers seeking to blaze their own trail.
This month’s TWIC Talk subject is Kimberli Carroll, senior vice president of sales for the Foodservice Business Unit at Ruiz Food Products Inc. In 2015, Carroll was one of the five women celebrated by TWIC as Women of the Year.
CSNews: How would you describe the current state of affairs for gender equality in the convenience industry? How does this compare to 10 years ago?
Carroll: My observation is that it is really good and I am extremely bullish on the future. I started working in the c-store industry, on the manufacturing side, nearly 17 years ago and even then, there were many women involved in varying levels of responsibility within the industry. What I have observed in the last 10 years is even more women stepping into senior leadership roles.
CSNews: What is the most positive change you have personally witnessed?
Carroll: It seems like more women today are willing to challenge themselves to take on more responsibility at work and push themselves to take on what were formerly unconventional roles for women. It helps that family dynamics have also evolved. Men are also taking on unconventional roles, either being the primary parent or even a stay-at-home parent. The ability to better balance work life and home life makes it possible for men and women to pursue their passions without societal judgement.
CSNews: Along your career path, did you personally experience gender bias or inequality? If so, how did you overcome?
Carroll: If I have, I was not aware of it. Honestly, I can say that I am very fortunate to have had a lot of support throughout my career, both from men and women who sought to give all team members the opportunity to succeed. I have certainly had my share of obstacles and failures, but have always felt supported to get back up and try again. Ruiz Foods, where I have spent the last 17 years of my career, has made integrity and respect for all a cornerstone of the company culture. We are very inclusive. I don’t remember ever thinking or feeling like my gender was in any way inhibiting my potential for success. I can certainly remember, especially early in my career, wondering if I had enough education and/or enough experience to get to that next rung, but gender has not been a factor.
CSNews: What barriers to advancement do you see still existing in the c-store industry?
Carroll: It is truly a great time to be a woman in the business world, c-store industry or otherwise. In the last 25 years, women have achieved many firsts. The good news for those of us who are coming after is that for the most part, the doors are already open. Now, we just have to prove that we are the best person for the job.
CSNews: What is your advice for other industry women looking to rise to higher ranks?
Carroll: My advice to other industry women is don’t get in your own way. Surround yourself with positive people who you respect, both professionally and personally. Keep educating yourself and when the opportunity is presented, raise your hand and say, “Yes, I can."