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Star Women panel discusses COVID's impact on working women

Leadership, team building and inclusivity were also discussed by three of this year’s award winners during Canadian Grocer’s recent online celebration
Shutterstock/Dragana Gordic

COVID-19 has forced some unique challenges on the grocery industry and its employees. The pandemic has changed the way we communicate, collaborate and turned the idea of a normal working day on its head. Throw childcare and home-schooling into an already fraught daily grind and it's easy to understand how COVID-19 is impacting working women and moms.

According to a study published by RBC last summer, COVID-19 has pushed women's participation in the labour force down to its lowest level in three decades, which re-enforces the importance of creating a culture where women can thrive.

"Women who are parents of young or school-aged children are more likely than men to scale back or leave the workforce altogether. And this has shown up in the unemployment rate comparisons from pre-COVID to the most recent reports in July," said Kerry Tompson, vice-president, talent & inclusion at Sobeys and a 2020 Star Women in Grocery winner.

Tompson said Sobeys' parent Empire company had made some real inroads in creating a working environment where women would thrive, but still recognized "there's so much more to do, especially as we consider the pressures of today's environment."

Since the start of COVID-19, for instance, Sobeys has instituted flexible working hours for both office staff and frontline workers. And, in the long-term, Empire is focused on increasing the representation of women in office and in-store leadership positions. The company has launched a women's inclusion network in 14 chapters nationally to promote and support advancement, mentorship and development of women.

Tompson was joined by fellow winners Marie-Eve Royer, senior vice-president, transformation, Bimbo Canada and Marie-Claude Bacon, vice-president, public affairs & communications, Metro, for a panel discussion during the Star Women in Grocery Awards Celebration held virtually on Oct. 29.

Leadership, inclusivity and what it takes to build strong teams and create a strong workplace culture were topics explored throughout the 20-minute session. Royer stressed the importance of transparency and creating a space where employees feel safe to share their ideas.

"I make sure I'm always very transparent with my team," said Royer. "And I expect the same from them. I think they know that they can come to me anytime, regardless of the situation and we'll figure it out together."

To build a strong team, Bacon said she gives the best of herself and encourages her colleagues to do the same. "You have to be ambitious in your projects and deliver quality and be well organized to deliver well," she said. "And we have to work with our strengths, and we have to see where we can improve and strive for more. And it starts with yourself really."

Click here to see the full list and bios of the 2020 Star Women in Grocery winners.


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