The Network of Executive Women Talk Consumer Goods at Simmons

March 28, 2016

Network of Executive Women

On February 22, The Network of Executive Women hosted a panel discussion featuring five female employers from the CPG Industry.

The Network of Executive Women (NEW) was founded to address the lack of women leaders in the retail and consumer good industries. On February 22, five leaders of the NEW New England Chapter hosted a Consumer Goods & Retail Industry Panel at Simmons College. The hour-and-a-half long session featured panelists that represented different roles within the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. Female employers from Hannaford, JOH Brokerage, The J.M. Smucker Company, inStream, and United Natural Foods participated on the panel, covering topics from industry insight to career advice. The goal of the panel was to expose students to the many facets of the consumer good industry, including retail, wholesale, brokerage, and manufacturing. Potential Industry mentors and student mentees can email Laurie Burgess at for more information on how to get involved. 

Here are the top three pieces of advice students took away from the event:

1. On Building Relationships with Vendors

"As a good partner, you have to anticipate a trend before it comes mainstream," says Laurie Burgess, Ahold Account Manager at United Natural Foods. Anticipating a trend, Laurie points out, is important in establishing a two-way relationship where both vendors benefit. Remember to view your partnerships with vendors as working toward a common goal. Early trend-spotting is a strategy that can be used to establish unique partnerships that will differentiate both companies from competition. 

2. On Being a Woman in the CPG Industry

Understanding where data comes from and using it as the foundation of your arguments can be an effective tool in getting your voice heard as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated CPG Industry, notes Dana Giffin, National Account Manager at The J.M. Smucker Company. Dana points out that once she became data-savvy and started relying on numbers to support her claims, her professional career really took off. "Knowledge becomes power when information becomes available," adds in Kim Richardson-Roach, Vice President of Retailer Engagement at inStream. This is because if a claim is rooted in data, it is rooted in truth. 

3. On Networking and Career Advice

When it comes to networking, it is important to view potential employers as people. "Get to know them first, and always be sincere," says Kathy Ferguson, Vice President of Specialty at JOH Brokerage. She also notes that sending a followup email after each encounter is a great way to build a genuine connection. E-commerce Operations Specialist at Hannaford, Krista Specht, shares that she writes something personal on the back of each business card as a helpful tool in writing her followup emails. Overall, each panelist agrees that joining the Network of Executive Women has been one of the most biggest contributions to building their networks and advancing their careers.