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Top 10 Women in Tech


It’s no secret that neither the retail industry nor the technology industry has exactly achieved parity when it comes to granting women access to top-level decision-making positions. According to a report from IIC Partners, 64% of retailers said their senior executive team was less than 25% female — despite the fact that women drive a whopping 85% of all consumer purchases.

Women are famously underrepresented in technology. Looking at technology jobs of all levels, only about 25% are held by women, according to a study from HR&A Advisors. Yet women hold 41% of science and engineering degrees.

However, things are starting to change, even if it’s at a slow pace. IIC Partners data show that 57% of retail companies say gender diversity is “very” or at least “somewhat” important, with technology listed as a top-four area where retailers are planning to include more women.

And with technology coming out of the “back room” and being distributed across the organization, including major points of contact with an overwhelmingly female customer base, the inclusive nature of retailers’ technology executive teams should only increase.

Fortunately for the growing numbers of women ascending the ladder of retail technology success, some trailblazers have already led the way and demonstrated how a woman can, in fact, survive and thrive as an executive decision-maker in the world of retail IT. While there are more women with retail technology achievements worthy of recognition than can be included in a single article, Chain Store Age selected 10 female retail technology executives who have truly demonstrated leadership, passion and innovation in their field.

Some of these women are technology “lifers,” while others have come to IT from other areas of the business, such as merchandising and supply chain. Some have always worked in retail, while others have backgrounds in such industries as airlines and health care. And they represent a host of retail verticals, including mass merchandise, drug store, direct-to-consumer and apparel, to name a few.

But they all share one thing in common — a track record of success in selecting, implementing and managing technology to benefit their organizations and their customers. And they have done so while overcoming the unique, gender-based challenges facing a female retail technology executive. So read on and learn how smart, capable women handle the issues that a female in the modern workplace must confront, while also overseeing the day-to-day complexities of a large retail technology enterprise.

Karenann Terrell

Executive VP & CIO, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Karenann Terrell, who has served as executive VP and CIO of Wal-Mart since December 2010 and previously held the CIO position at international healthcare company Baxter, is about to have her already busy life become much busier. Since assuming the CIO role at Wal-Mart, Terrell has been responsible for managing the retailer’s global technology platform, including its 11,000 stores and clubs in 27 countries, as well as its supply chain, merchandising, security and enterprise infrastructure.

However, in October 2014, Wal-Mart announced it is changing the way it prioritizes and funds IT projects by channeling all IT projects through Terrell’s office. This centralization under the CIO is designed to eliminate IT project duplication, ensure company goals are met in order of importance, and utilize resources as efficiently as possible.

Being the one person ultimately responsible for every IT project launched by a company the size and scope of Wal-Mart is no easy task. Tackling that responsibility as a female executive can be even harder, but as Terrell told the audience at an April 2013 conference held by the Michigan Council of Women in Technology, she and other women are up to the challenge.

“I am a woman, and that will never change,” said Terrell. “It’s OK to look at women as primary caregivers with flexibility. And when you have a flexible environment, it’s good for everyone.”

To help other female technology professionals at Wal-Mart, Terrell has developed mechanisms to boost retention, such as creating mentoring circles that connect women with 20 fellow Wal-Mart employees.

Karen Etzkorn

Executive VP & CIO, HSN Inc. (HSNi)

When Karen Etzkorn assumed the role of CIO at HSNi in January 2013, she was not just breaking ground as the company’s first female CIO. She was the first CIO of HSNi, period. In this position, the former senior VP and CIO of Ascena Retail Group oversees all aspects of IT for HSNi’s two operating segments — HSN and Cornerstone.

Etzkorn has played a pivotal role in the ongoing strategic transformation of HSNi’s core processes and technologies, with the long-term goal of creating a more customer-focused, seamless and efficient operation. She makes innovation the foundation of all her efforts.

“Innovation is the foundation of an exceptional customer experience,” Etzkorn said during a session at the RetailROI Super Saturday event held in New York in January 2014. “Innovation is not a whiz-bang product. It’s giving data to the consumer to let her know what she should buy.”

HSNi redesigned its website in 2013, and Etzkorn is also actively involved in efforts to deliver highly personalized and targeted mobile offers, as well as gamified promotions through the HSN Arcade online game platform.

In addition, Etzkorn is overseeing the Boundaryless Retail initiative, which focuses on the “four screens” HSNi uses to engage consumers: TV, tablet, PC and smartphone. The ultimate goal of Boundaryless Retail is to create a seamless, community-oriented customer experience where personalized content, including imagery and video, cuts across all channels.

Leena Munjal

Senior VP customer experience and integrated retail, Sears Holdings Corp.

Leena Munjal, who has served with Sears Holdings Corp. as senior VP customer experience and integrated retail since September 2012 and started with the company in 2004, sees technology as an enabler of an improved shopping experi ence. As part of that mission, in 2012 Munjal founded Integrated Retail Labs, a team at Sears charged with questioning the norm and pushing creative boundaries to redefine the shopping experience.

“Integrated retail is at the core of Sears Holdings’ strategy,” Munjal said. “That means leveraging our strengths, our team of more than 200,000 associates, 1,800 physical stores, online and mobile capabilities, the Shop Your Way membership program and a robust supply chain, and connecting them together through technology. That way, our members can get the best of both worlds: the ease of browsing online as well as the physical experience of shopping in-store.”

Notable capabilities aimed at Shop Your Way loyalty members, developed by the Integrated Retail team under Munjal’s leadership, include picking up, returning and exchanging purchases from a vehicle; in-store pickup of online purchases; expert associate advice delivered via online and mobile channels; and online reserving of in-store merchandise.

“Stay attuned to what customers are saying,” advised Munjal. “You will be surprised how willing they are to offer feedback on what they like and what could be done better. Once you identify those opportunities,

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