Half of Target’s 1,826 store managers are female. Each of these managers oversees 200 employees, and are responsible for maximizing profitability, sales, guest experience and store design.
Brian Cornell, who has served as Target’s (TGT) chairman and CEO since August 2014, described the importance of having strong female leaders, whom customers interact with most intimately and closely.
“Most of the 30 million shoppers who come into our stores every week don’t care who their CEO is. These are neighborhood stores — they don’t care about who Brian Cornell is,” he said at a conference hosted by Catalyst, a global nonprofit that promotes inclusive workplaces for women in New York City, on Tuesday. Cornell has been a board member of Catalyst since 2016.
This sentiment is true, for the most part. When Uber was plagued with a year of scandal after scandal, it turned out that most riders didn’t know (or care) who the CEO was.
Prior to joining Target, Cornell was CEO of PepsiCo Americas Foods under Pepsi boss Indra Nooyi. Earlier in his career, he worked under Ellen Marram, the CEO of Tropicana. He has cited both as influential role models, especially when there were very few women CEOS.
‘Leadership should reflect the customer you serve’
All levels of leadership across the retail industry should reflect the reality that women have the lion’s share of purchasing power, according to Cornell.
“Seventy-five percent of all retail purchases are made by women. They influence an even bigger percentage. We don’t reflect that across the industry,” he said. We should have more diversity in the C-suite and more women as CEOs because she’s the customer we’re taking care of. Leadership should reflect the consumer you serve.”
On the corporate level, Target’s leadership reflects this belief system. Women make up 36% of the board and 45% of the executive level — which surpasses industry and corporate standards. According to analysis from Retail Leader, Target stands out among its cohort as a champion for gender equality in the C-suite and boardroom. Females make up 30% of Walmart’s executive management, and a mere 3% of Costco’s. The overall retail industry has more female directors on average (26% compared with 20% of the S&P 500), according to a 2017 PwC report.
While Cornell expressed his pride in making significant progress championing for women in leadership, he said he’s still not satisfied.
“Across the organization, we have incredible talent. I want to foster an environment where we continue to attract great talent. That’s important as we go forward. I know that within our organization, in tech or supply chain, we have to do a much better job at hiring females. We’re trying to raise the bar,” Cornell said.
Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.