In 2008, the retail industry was a stark landscape for women of color. Women made up 65% of the workforce but only 22% of leadership roles. For women of color — Latinas, Asians, and Blacks combined — the number was less than 1%. This glaring disparity was not just disheartening; it was a call to action.
Frustrated by the professional isolation, I organized a dinner during market week, inviting every woman of color in corporate retail at the director level and above. The night arrived, and there were just six of us. It was a humble beginning, but it was a start.
Fast forward to 2020, a year that shook the world. Amidst the chaos, it was clear that the struggles for women of color in retail remained. I reached out to trusted colleagues who shared the vision for change. We were tired of seeing talented women of color stuck in mid-level roles, isolated and without resources to climb the corporate ladder. Moreover, we wanted to help retail corporations evolve sustainably.
In September 2020, we hosted our first virtual networking event, “We Should Know Each Other,” and exceeded capacity. Energized by this success, we organized more gatherings and launched two key initiatives: “My Leadership Journey” and “Straight No Chaser.”
Recognizing the need for a structured approach, the board of directors of the Women of Color Retail Alliance collaborated with Mollard Consulting to develop a growth strategy. I was honored to be chosen as the CEO to lead the organization into its next chapter. Our mission was clear: to ensure that women of color thrive and succeed in the retail industry. Our vision was equally ambitious: women of color elevated, C-suite diversified, and the industry transformed.
Today, women make up 80% of the retail workforce but only 29% of leadership roles, with women of color at less than 4%. This is not just a disparity; it’s an injustice. One that we are committed to rectifying.
Our organization is not just a network; it’s a movement. We are here to mend the “broken rung” and shatter the “glass cliffs” that have kept women of color from reaching their full potential. We are here to provide the resources, mentorship, and community that have been sorely lacking. Most importantly, we are here to change the narrative.
The journey of the Women of Color Retail Alliance is a testament to the power of community and the impact of collective action. From a modest dinner of six to a burgeoning organization with a clear growth strategy, we have come a long way, but the road ahead is long, and the work is far from over. Together, we will continue to push boundaries, break barriers, and create a retail industry that is as diverse and vibrant as the communities it serves.