March 28, 2014
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Merchandising Director Tracy Toomer​

Over the course of her career, Tracy Toomer has learned that effective leadership entails putting people first and fostering dignity and respect. And thanks to help from mentors and co-workers, male and female, she has been able to thrive as she’s developed her style of leadership.

Toomer came to Winn-Dixie from the Los Angeles area in 2012. She began her career at Starbucks and was an operations leader for more than 13 years. This is where she discovered it was people she loved and that it didn’t matter what industry she worked in as long as she could have a positive impact on the customer experience. Her sense of customers as people, her concern for their needs and her experience in the retail industry helped her make the next successive moves in her restaurant and retail career.

When she came to the grocery industry, she already had plenty of experience as a woman in a field dominated by men. But along the way, she said, she has had enough support from peers and mentors to feel that she’s never been at a disadvantage, she said. As a member of the company’s management team, she said she has the additional challenge of managing perception, building trust and creating an environment where dignity and respect are core guiding principles. That has led to a careful study of people’s expectations in leadership and delivering with her own brand of individuality.

“I have a two-pronged challenge: I’m African-American, and I’m also a woman,” she said. “You want to be a team player, but you also feel the need to prove yourself. Most people in leadership are A-type personalities, and that’s expected. But when a woman falls into this category, it can be seen as too aggressive. You have to understand your communication style; men want you to be a woman.I can still be results-driven without having to adopt aggressive or demanding behaviors.”

The right mix for success for a woman in leadership is easy when she’s in the right organization, she said. Tracy tells the next generation of women leaders in their careers, “look for growth. Look for the teams that grow quickly. Look for companies that are doing well. Look for a place where you feel that you can have a lot of impact.”

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