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

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

Chain Store Age honored 28 accomplished female retail executives with "Retail’s Top Women Awards" at a virtual event on June 13. 

The awards were given in five categories: supply chain, finance, marketing, store development and facilities management and technology. Four of the most senior leaders were honored as Women of the Year. (Here is a complete list of the honorees.)

“These women are helping to transform the retail industry as they work to position their companies for continued success — and they are doing so during a time of unparalleled change across all aspects of retail operations,” said CSA editor-in-chief Marianne Wilson. “Our honorees are leaders in every sense of the word. Through their achievements, they are not only driving the industry forward but also advancing the presence and influence of women in senior leader and decision-making positions across retail.”

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

Richele Chituck, VP, IT, supply chain, Dollar Tree:

“I am grateful for the challenges that taught me to inspire, learn, direct and focus on right things, and make the impossible happen. I encourage all of you to go inspire, be focused, do a great job, make it happen and most importantly, have it all.”

Becky Gomez, assistant VP, director of marketing and e-commerce, Half Price Book:

“I just celebrated 20 years at Half Price Books and still feel like a kid in a book store every time I come to work. I am privileged to work for company that has a phenomenal team of female leaders — and we always have as we are we are women-owned. Going forward, I challenge myself and all of you to look for future women leaders to add to your team.”

Sara Iverson-Smith, senior director of real estate, construction and facilities, Blain’s Farm & Fleet:

“My journey to Blain’s Farm & Fleet has been a winding one, but I feel I have found the perfect place to grow and thrive. I have been given the freedom to craft this position into something I am passionate about."

“This is not just because of the leadership of Jane Blain Gilbertson, our owner and CEO, but the team she surrounds herself with — real hardworking leaders who don’t just care about the business but also care about us and our families.”

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Jennifer Judd, director of store maintenance, Gap Inc.:

“Seeing the growing role of women in facilities maintenance, construction and engineering is truly inspiring — we are breaking barriers and setting new standards. Let’s continue to keep holding each other up and to be involved. I’m excited for what future holds and to continue contributing to this amazing industry.”

Lisa Carter, senior director of IT applications, Rutter’s:

“I am deeply humbled to be recognized among an inspiring group of women transforming the retail industry. To everyone: keep pushing forward, stay curious and never underestimate the power of your contributions. Let’s continue to elevate and empower each other.”

Neelima Sharma, senior VP, digital commerce & technology, Lowe’s Companies:

“This recognition is for all women and my team that stands with me, and the fact that we are breaking barriers in technology every single day. To all the young women aspiring to lead in technology: know your voices are vital and your contributions are invaluable. This award is a testament to our collective efforts and the bright future we are all building together.”

Ericka Ayles, CFO, Yesway (Woman of the Year):

“I took the opportunity to preview the group of women being celebrated. The collective depth and breath of talent is awe inspiring and I am truly honored to be in their company. Congratulations to all of you.

“Our industry has a rich history of attracting both collaborative and driven individuals and my experience at Yesway no different. My remarkable team, coupled with a store-first mentality and a culture that rewards collaboration, is what drives our teams and our collective success. Without my team, I would not be on this [virtual] podium today. I am incredibly proud of team we’ve built and I humbly share award with them.”

Shirley Gao, chief digital and information officer (CDIO), PacSun (Woman of the Year):

“As CDIO for PacSun, I have the privilege of leading a very talented team and collaborating with business partners. We continue to push the boundaries of digital transformation, innovation and excellence. This award reflects the dedication and creativity of everyone at PacSun."

“In the rapidly evolving AI era, I look forward to staying curious, constantly learning and applying AI and innovation so PacSun can provide the best products and services to our customers."

“This recognition inspires me to continue supporting the growth and investment of women in the retail industry. Together we can drive meaningful change, and create a more inclusive and innovative future.”


The CSA Retail’s Top Women Awards were sponsored by data and intelligence solutions provider Melissa.

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