TWIC Trailblazer: Reynolds American Inc.

The convenience store supplier is crafting a company where all employees can thrive.
Linda Lisanti
Linda Lisanti profile picture
Ashlei Harris
Ashlei Harris

WINSTON-SALEM N.C. — Now in its ninth year, the Convenience Store NewsTop Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program has recognized more than 400 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 our TWIC Trailblazers quarterly feature, we spotlight a c-store industry retailer, supplier or distributor company that is leading the way in championing gender parity.

This month’s subject is Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), which is making great strides in diversity, particularly within its management ranks. Today, 35 percent of its management is female, and the company’s goal is to reach 45 percent in 2025. 

CSNews recently chatted with Ashlei Harris, senior manager of diversity and inclusion at Reynolds, about the supplier’s ongoing work around gender parity and diversity.

CSNews: Why, as an organization, does Reynolds feel it is important to improve gender equality in the workplace? 

Harris: We believe a collective diversity of thought enables us to innovate, transform, and ultimately drive better business results. No matter your gender, race, sexual orientation, background or beliefs, you are celebrated at the Reynolds American Inc. group of companies.

Research shows that diverse organizations outperform other businesses. It’s no coincidence that diversity is one of the key factors for job seekers today. To attract and grow top talent, you must make your company a place where ALL employees can thrive — and that’s the culture we’re continuing to build at Reynolds.

CSNews: What are some of the ways Reynolds has been able to achieve having women occupy 35 percent of its management positions today?

Harris:We’re encouraged by our progress, but we’re not all the way there yet. By 2025, we aim to reach gender parity in management roles and to significantly increase minority representation in management and senior management roles.

We have expanded unconscious bias training throughout the organization; facilitated diversity and inclusion dialogue sessions across the company, including our leadership team; and doubled our overall investment in diversity programs,offering access to dedicated learning and development programs for female and underrepresented employees, as well as newly recruited or promoted line managers. These programs include:

  • Our Women in Leadership program, with a delegate profile of female leaders in junior to senior management. This program covers training in developing your personal brand, political savvy and networking, building empowering beliefs, and courageous conversations.
  • We are partnering with WOMEN Unlimited to offer focused development and coaching to female leaders across all functions and levels in the organization.
  • Working with our consultant partner, Involve, we offer leadership programming to underrepresented employees via the EMPower program to strengthen our focus on developing the next generation of diverse leaders.

CSNews: How does Reynolds plan to attain gender parity by 2025? What initiatives are in the works now, or slated for the near future? 

Harris:Our Global Graduate program and internship opportunities offer world-class training, international exposure, and support and mentorship from our industry experts for early-career talent. In 2021, our intern class was 52 percent female, while females have made up 54 percent of Global Graduates. Here at Reynolds, our Global Graduates and interns take on real responsibility from day one, with an invitation to contribute ideas to challenging projects, rapidly developing their potential over a short time.

For experienced professionals, we are in the early stages of launching IGNITE, our new global program for experienced professionals returning to the workplace after a career break. The program identifies, recruits and supports returners, helping them reintegrate into the workplace and build their confidence. It is part of our approach to supporting the greater gender diversity of our workforce.

Our progressive [email protected] program enables employees to care for and support their new or expanded families while balancing their professional goals — regardless of gender. Our parental leave policy offers 16 weeks of fully paid leave for new mothers and fathers and the ability to take up to eight months of a Reduced Work Schedule. Employees can take up to two unpaid days off per week, subject to managerial consideration/approval.

Is your company leading the way in championing gender parity? If so, we want to hear about your efforts. Contact Editor-in-Chief Linda Lisanti at [email protected]. 

About the Author

Linda Lisanti
Linda Lisanti is Editor-in-Chief of Convenience Store News. Read More