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Exclusive: Overheard at CSA'S Retail's Top Women Awards Celebration

csa top women 2023
Female retail honorees celebrated their career accomplishments at last week's "CSA Retail’s Top Women Awards."

Chain Store Age celebrated 25 accomplished female retail executives with "Retail’s Top Women Awards" at a virtual event in June. 

The awards were given in four categories: technology, supply chain, store development/facilities and real estate. Three of the most senior leaders were honored as Women of the Year. (Here is a complete list of the honorees.)

“The recipients of our Retail’s Top Women Awards are leaders in every sense of the word,” said CSA editor-in-chief Marianne Wilson. “Along with keeping their companies at the forefront of innovation, they are helping to advance the presence of women in senior decision-making positions across the industry.”

Below is a sampling of some of the insights heard during the awards celebration.

Lisa Wittman-Smith, senior VP, inventory management and business insights, JOANN:

“These past two years of supply chain disruption have been a classic tale of ‘never let a good crisis go to waste.’ I am blessed to work alongside the best and brightest hearts and minds at JOANN. In particular, thank you to my team which inspires me to live in a growth mindset. We do great things together — furthered by data — one day at a time. 

“I appreciate the recognition of my impact as a woman in a leadership role at JOANN. And congratulations to all the women who are paving the way and making impact every day."

Jennifer Sorrells, senior manager, retail real estate, T-Mobile:

“This is a surreal moment for me. On my very first day in commercial real estate, my boss gave me a copy of Chain Store Age to supplement my industry learning. That connection to my first day on the job makes this award even more special. And I hope it serves as a reminder to each of us to continue to plant seeds and mentor others — you never know how they will grow.”

Danni Gallagher, VP, planning, design and construction, CVS Health:

“I work with the best planning, design and construction teams in the industry. We’re being innovative and driving for success in all projects. I want to thank my team rising to challenge, as well as my peers and colleagues who are always championing our efforts.”

Laura Gross, senior manager, facilities, American Signature:

“Thank you Chain Store Age for spotlighting women in facilities. As we navigate murky waters of delayed materials and labor shortages, it is the vendors that we partner with that help make American Signature successful in giving our customers the best shopping experience. 

“I’d also like to thank the best store design, construction and maintenance team that I have the privilege to work with. We are small but mighty, and I cannot express enough my gratitude for your hard work and dedication.”

Lauren Kruse, VP of store creation, store development, Sephora:

“My team inspires me on daily basis. Without their dedication, our journey to becoming best-in-class store development group simply would not be possible. I am immensely proud to lead this exceptional team and I deeply appreciate each and every one of their valuable contributions.”

Julie Starzynski,  director of construction & design, Floor & Decor:

“In my almost 20 years in the industry, I have always tried  —and do my best — to be a great role model for women in construction. It’s been a struggle for women in the industry and I hope I am leading the way for more women to do great things and hold executive roles in construction.”

 Stacey Furey, director of supplier performance, Ace Hardware:

“This recognition is truly a testament to the power of innovation and the transformative role women in technology have played in the retail industry. Today, I accept this award on behalf of the talented teams I’ve had privilege to work with. I’m so happy to be part of Ace Hardware, a company that has so many successful and fantastic women as role models and that values teamwork.”

Kate Baily, VP, e-commerce, Journeys (Genesco):

“This recognition is truly a testament to the power of innovation and the transformative role women in technology have played in the retail industry. Over my 30-plus years in retail, I witnessed the seismic shifts as we leverage technology in the retail landscape.”

“I express my deepest gratitude to my e-commerce team and the senior leadership at Journeys and Genesco. I am grateful for their support and for the opportunities.”

Anshu Bhardwaj, senior VP, Walmart global technology, Walmart:

“I’ve had the privilege of being on this team for the last decade or so….where all of the [technology] action is taking place. I see first-hand how the technology at Walmart is powering the present and enabling the future.”

“Thank you to my many managers and cross-functional partners who ended up being mentors and encouraged me to think outside box every day. And thank you to each of my team members over years who  have given the company their best every day, especially during hard times. Let’s continue to inspire and empower one another on this remarkable journey.”

 Dawn Iezzi, senior IT director — store & services, PetSmart:

“I’ve been in retail IT for over 20 years, first at American Eagle Outfitters and now Petsmart. I want to thank my internal teams and business partners from both companies.

"I’ve learned and grown so much in my roles and we have accomplished so many things. It’s these co-workers that really made me love coming to work and make it so rewarding and fulfilling.”

Debra Sell, director, e-commerce, Dick’s Sporting Goods:

“I’m so lucky to work at a company that truly supports women and allowed me to thrive. I work with very talented team of e-commerce and retail experts who challenge and push me every day to be my very best. I’m very lucky to be given space at Dick’s to innovate and make mistakes, all in the spirit of being better every day.”

 Nicole West, VP, digital strategy & product, Chipotle:

“I’m privileged to work with an amazing team that is obsessed with delivering exceptional end-to-end digital experiences for our customers and crew members in the field — a team that is never satisfied, and that drives innovation, optimization and transformation across our $3 billion digital business. Thank you, team — you inspire me everyday.” 

Prama Bhatt, chief digital officer, Ulta Beauty:

“I am humbled by this award and intend to pay forward this honor by encouraging, celebrating and amplifying the retail leaders of tomorrow…I want to specifically thank my awesome digital and consumer technology teams. This  recognition is really about them. The way they live Ulta Beauty values with passion and focus on creating amazing guest experiences makes me proud to be part of this team every day.”

Fiona Tan, chief technology officer, Wayfair:

"I am privileged to work with a passionate, talented team of global technologists who work hard every day to make shopping and selling on Wayfair a delightful experience.

“I hope to encourage young women who are thinking about a career path to consider technology or retail technology in particular, since technology will play a major role for foreseeable future.” 

CSA’s Retail’s Top Women Awards were sponsored by Melissa (presenting sponsor), T-Mobile and NEST.

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