Realizing Diverse Retail Leadership

Phoebe Harper
By Phoebe Harper  - Editorial Director

Championing women upwards, we shine a light on the Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC) in conversation with President and Co-Founder, Jennifer DiPasquale.

North America Outlook (NA): Firstly, could you talk me through the origins of WIRLC – when were you founded and what led to your inception?

Jennifer DiPasquale, President and Co-Founder (JD): We founded the Women in Retail Leadership Circle in 2014 alongside our national marquis event, the Women in Retail Leadership Summit, as a means of connecting our diverse executive leaders year-round. WIRLC is an exclusive community of women executives at leading retailers and brands. Our mission is to foster leadership development for our members by providing an unparalleled mix of events, content, and elite connections. Focused on both business strategy and executive professional development, WIRLC offers women leaders the opportunity to network, discuss industry issues, and learn how to become better leaders.


NA: Would you say that greater progress needs to be made in terms of gender diversification in the retail space across North America?  

JD: Across industries, including retail, men still outnumber women three to one when it comes to business ownership. As of today, only 8.8 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have a female CEO. 

The COVID-19 pandemic also had a massive effect on women in the workforce. The US labor force has lost 1.067 million women since February 2020. All these statistics are even more pronounced for women of color. Not only is there more work to be done when it comes to gender equality and diversification, but we’re also rebuilding the workforce we lost over these past few years. 

However, the good news is that progress is being made. Women held 29 percent of corporate board seats in 2022, up from 24 percent two years ago. Women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rate we’ve ever seen due to not being supported and advanced properly. To make meaningful and sustainable progress toward gender equality, companies need to prioritize flexibility, employee well-being, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).


NA: How does WIRLC seek to improve this?

JD: Study after study shows diverse leadership is linked to better company performance. WIRLC is designed to help women leaders advance within organizations through professional development and leadership training. We’re committed to helping fill leadership pipelines and continue to connect leaders with advancement opportunities. We champion women upward and help them become the best leaders they can be by offering them a community of executives and a support system to connect with along the way. 


NA: What are the organization’s immediate goals?

JD: Our immediate goal is to continue to grow our community of diverse executive leaders and offer them the very best leadership training we can through various in-person and virtual events as well as insightful content, which in turn, continues to advance women in leadership positions.


NA: Finally, could you tell us more about the Women in Retail Leadership Summit to be held in Arizona in 2023?

JD: The Women in Retail Leadership Summit, taking place 17-19th April 2023, offers women executives at leading retailers and brands the opportunity to improve both their professional lives and business strategies. The summit provides attendees with access to powerful content from women leaders across industries, helps them uncover new and innovative leadership practices, and informs them about the latest retail and technology trends and how they will affect their businesses. Attendees will be able to share their knowledge with new contacts during fun and unique networking opportunities, find inspiration on how to conquer challenges in both their personal and professional lives, and experience unique activations at this white-glove event. 


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