2022 Star Women in Grocery winner Janet Rickford (Q&A)
Senior Level Star
VP Retail and Merchandising Data Products and Services
Loblaw Technology / Loblaw
What is your proudest career achievement?
When I joined in the fall of 2019, I quickly made it my mandate at Loblaw to breathe new life into our existing Women in Technology (WIT) pillar, which is a part of our robust Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy. I apply the same structure that I would for any initiative I’m leading – setting goals, measuring progress, and using data-driven insights to course correct. With that approach I have been able to champion metrics tracking for recruiting, retention, and advancement of women at each level, enabling the Loblaw leadership team to monitor progress and meet (DEI) goals. We have adjusted our job descriptions to attract more women candidates and have robust programs that drive engagement in our current colleagues. It makes me almost giddy to share that we have already seen a 21% increase in our women in technology overall, and a 112% increase at the executive level.
What keeps you passionate about your work?
I am truly passionate about data. With data-driven insights we are redefining how Loblaw can advance its competitiveness in the market and make more vendors, products and services available to customers. It gets me excited that we’re improving the onboarding experience for vendors and reducing the time it takes to get their products on our shelves, creating both a better vendor experience and greater value for the customer. At the end of the day, the customer is at the centre of everything we do at Loblaw.
What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?
Returning to work after taking an extended period away from technology and the retail industry. After taking eight years away to start a family and run my own business, I wanted to return to the corporate world and had trouble finding a role that didn’t discount all my previous experience. Prior to leaving, I had been an executive in a large consulting firm’s global retail practice, but when I started working with recruiting agencies, they were suggesting entry level jobs. I couldn’t believe it! I knew I needed to be part of changing how women re-enter the workforce, and advocate for hiring based on tenure, not dates. I am proud to share my story to help break down bias against women (and men) who take a pause in their career for child or elder care. I actively coach those who are re-entering the workforce by helping them develop strong networking skills and empowering them to be confident that they have expanded, not contracted, their skill set by doing something different for a while.
What is the best career advice you've received?
Ask for help—early and often. Rather than viewing asking for help as a weakness, I was encouraged to view it as taking advantage of all the experience and perspectives from those around me. It can be tempting to persevere and try to solve a problem yourself, but if the worst case happens and you can’t, chances are the resolution costs more than when you first uncovered the issue. I strive to ask for help before I really need it and make myself available when my colleagues turn to me.
How do you like to spend your time when you're not working?
I have two very energetic daughters, ages seven and nine, who I’m happy to have consume my free time. When we aren’t running between activities or building LEGO, I love to putter in my garden or get lost in a good book.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you for hosting these awards each year. There are so many fantastic women in this industry and sharing their stories will help attract even more.
Click here for the full list of 2022 Star Women in Grocery award winners.