ATLANTA — Yesway was honored with the 2023 Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) Corporate Empowerment Award at the 10th annual TWIC Awards Gala, held Oct. 4 against the backdrop of the 2023 NACS Show.
Now in its second year, this award honors a convenience retail company that commits to gender equality, paves the way to empower women in leadership roles and is a champion for the inclusion of women in the goals and vision of the enterprise.
The leadership team at Yesway firmly believes that the best outcomes for the convenience store chain’s customers and investors come from having a company culture that promotes diversity of thought and challenges the status quo.
"Yesway has always prided itself as a company that is diverse, inclusive and equitable," said Tom Trkla, chairman and CEO of the Fort Worth, Texas-based organization.
In addition to keeping a watchful eye on human resources metrics such as employment statistics, employee retention, tenure and pay differentials, Yesway insists that gender equality and inclusion be a major factor across a broad range of initiatives from its capital planning decisions and security measures to its continuing education procedures and employee benefits plans.
"We support the principles of gender equality not because it is fashionable, but because it matters, and we continually take meaningful steps to advance that cause," Trkla said.
The company's hiring practices are always gender-blind and merit based, and Yesway has "a very strong bias to promoting from within," according to the chief executive.
Over the last few years, the retailer has sent several female executives to a weeklong Strategic Leadership Programme at Oxford University, and others to industry-specific leadership programs at Wharton Business School and to advanced study in business analytics at Drake University.
"We strive to ensure balance in our advancement programs through education and skill-building initiatives. By ensuring that our women leaders have access to the best continuing education tools, we are better able to support the transition to more senior leadership positions within the organization," Trkla explained.
Approximately 61 percent of Yesway's total workforce is made up of women currently, and women represent 75 percent of all promotions earned at the company in the last 12 months, with 77 percent of those among its retail teams.
While the retailer views gender equality and equitable female advancement as the product of both hiring practices and internal advancement programs, company leaders also believe that strong procedures in these areas are insufficient by themselves and must be accompanied by the creation of an equitable playing field that is supportive of family and education.
The 440-plus-store chain allows each retail manager to control his or her team's schedule in recognition of the need to balance family and work requirements. Flexible scheduling has become a critical factor in Yesway's ability to hire and retain female managers and district leaders, who currently account for 77 percent of its retail workforce.
"Flexible scheduling also serves as a leading contributor to retaining and growing our frontline staff. We have a particularly low turnover rate, especially amongst our female employees in field management positions (21 percent), relative to other companies in our industry," Trkla noted.
Additionally, Yesway ensures that the voices of women are heard throughout the organization by actively soliciting input, both individually and collectively. The retailer regularly conducts group discussions, one-on-one conversations and anonymous surveys with employees in an environment that is comfortable, open and safe.
"By doing so, we are able to gather thoughts, opinions and suggestions in an even-handed manner and ensure that we give equal weight and credibility to women at all levels," said Trkla.
All of these measures combined result in an equitable work environment, and have a continuous positive impact on Yesway's ability to hire and retain female employees.
“Given our aim to ensure all voices are heard and that women's voices are represented from the most senior levels of the c-store industry through the frontlines serving customers, we count exemplary women leaders at all levels of our team,” Trkla said.
Sponsored by The Hershey Co., the Corporate Empowerment Award was presented as part of the 2023 Top Women in Convenience program, the industry's first and only awards program that recognizes the integral role women play in convenience retailing.
This year's TWIC awards gala also honored the 10th class of Top Women in Convenience, comprised of 86 established and emerging female leaders in the convenience store industry. The 2023 TWIC class includes five Women of the Year, 39 Senior-Level Leaders, 35 Rising Stars and seven Mentors from across the industry’s retailer, distributor and supplier communities.