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There’s power in vulnerability: Star Women winners panel

Six of this year’s winners delved into several hot topics during Canadian Grocer’s Star Women in Grocery Awards ceremony
star women 2022
Photography by John Goldstein

Often mistaken for weakness, vulnerability is at the heart of authentic leadership and an important building block in creating a strong, healthy and safe workplace culture.

This was one of several insights highlighted during a panel discussion in front of a sold-out crowd during Canadian Grocer’s Star Women in Grocery Awards ceremony in Toronto last week.

Six of this year’s winners took on a range of topics during the hour-long chat—moderated by editor-in-chief Shellee Fitzgerald—including the importance of accepting feedback, the challenges of being a working parent and treating vulnerability as an asset.

Bonnie Birollo said vulnerability became her strength when the pandemic hit nine days into her role as SVP, retail operations at Sobeys, and she was faced with unprecedented challenges. “I knew nothing, some in this room would say I still know nothing,” said Birollo, with a laugh.

“However, thanks to the amazing people around me and my ability to accept that I was the least smart person in the room, I had team members from all over the place who gave me the feedback, the knowledge [and] the strength to make it through some tough days.”

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star women 2022
Photography by John Goldstein

Birollo was joined by Louisa Furtado (Metro), Shilpa Mukhi (P&G Canada), Janet Rickford (Loblaw Technology/Loblaw), Jessica Armstrong (Maple Leaf Foods) and Stephanie Goyette (Kraft Heinz Canada).

Vulnerability is one “key aspect” when it comes to retaining talent and creating a positive workplace culture, said Rickford, who left the industry for eight years to raise her family and start her own business.

Rickford said it was difficult to transition back into the workforce after such a long hiatus and believes it’s important to share these stories with team members to demonstrate how challenging it can be to maintain a work-life balance and get back into that routine.

“A big key is showing you’re not perfect,” she said. “You have days where you forget to pack your kid’s snack.”

Armstrong echoed Rickford’s sentiments. “People want to feel a sense of belonging and to feel understood,” said Armstrong. “Be vulnerable, especially in a leadership position, to show them it’s not easy and create an environment where people feel they can be heard and have support.”

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