June 20, 2014
Women in Dialogue 500px
The Bi-Lo Holdings Women in Dialogue group. Rear row from left, Merchandising Director Tracy Toomer; FP&A Director Emily Stovall; Assistant General Counsel, Employment and Labor Law Victoria Wellstead; Stacy G. Nathan of SGN Consulting; Associate Relations Specialist Hattie Andrews; Pharmacy Professional Services Manager BJ Cobb; General Merchandise Vice President Susan Moore. Front row from left, District Director Jennifer Short; Customer Support Senior Manager Gail Moore; Sales and Marketing Senior Manager Kim Smithers; Vice President of Human Resources and Talent Management Lynn Boston; Floral Director Cindy Rapshus. Not pictured: Regional Vice President Karena Niblett and group sponsor, Senior Vice President of Marketing Mary Kellmanson.​

In recent years, a growing number of women are assuming prominent roles once dominated by men. This change has been greater in some industries than others, and at Bi-Lo Holdings, a group of executive women is discussing ways to help foster and encourage career advancement for talented and qualified women.

The Bi-Lo Holdingsdiversity and inclusion executive council identified the group’s members, who first met earlier this year to determine whether new resources for women were necessary, said Ken Peterson, vice president of human resources and diversity.

“There was an overwhelmingly positive response that there was a need for a group of women, and that there was a desire to form such a group for the organization,” Peterson said.

Since then, the group has met to determine the opportunities for women to grow within the company and to advance into leadership positions, said Women in Dialogue group member Kim Smithers, senior manager of sales and marketing.

“We thought about our current culture and values, and we used that as a basis for our mission,” she said. Smithers said the group’s mission states that the group is “dedicated to creating a culture within Bi-Lo Holdings that attracts, develops and advances talented women.”

“This isn’t just about equality; it’s about having a stronger workforce because you’re diverse,” Smithers said. “We’re not looking for this to be a female-dominated company; we want to make sure it’s more inclusive for the entire organization.”

Peterson said the group is truly cross-functional and includes representation from multiple disciplines such as marketing, merchandising, operations, operations support, Human Resources, legal and pharmacy. Their ideas for resources include networking, mentoring, sponsorships and coaching of other women who want to be role models, he noted. Consultant Stacy G. Nathan of SGN Consulting has facilitated the meetings.

“We have found the women to be very engaged and to have a strong desire for the business to grow and be successful,” Peterson said. “The initial meetings have been very positive, well-received and give us encouragement that we have good things on the horizon for groups of this type in the industry.”

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