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Women have long been both the heart and spine of retail as consumers, first-line employees, designers, influencers, and leaders. But while women drive an estimated 70 to 80 percent of consumer spending and represent half of first-line employees, we only occupy 5.6 percent of S&P 500 retail company CEO positions. As retail companies begin to recognize that effective reach to their customer base depends on more diverse leadership and representation, they embark on a journey to inclusivity that could impact the entire retail industry.

Women supporting women at NRF 2019

NRF 2019, the world’s largest retail conference and expo, offers an unparalleled opportunity to hear from women already leading in retail, like this year’s featured speaker: Stacy Brown-Philpot, CEO at TaskRabbit. This year, NRF will also feature The Girls’ Lounge, a space for inspiring speakers, Q&As with retail industry leaders, networking opportunities, and more. The Girls’ Lounge will host discussions on a range of topics at the intersection of retail, gender, and technology. My colleague, Alysa Taylor (Corporate Vice President, Business Applications and Global Industry) and I are incredibly excited to take part.

I will be leading a discussion on a topic I am particularly passionate about: mentorship, particularly how to have a 360-degree approach to building relationships that will be the key to your success. Joining me is an esteemed panel of business leaders who will share their perspectives, such as Susan Feldman (Founder, In the Groove), Michelle Garvey (CIO, J. Crew), and Jill Braff (President, Brit + Co.).

In addition, Alysa will be discussing how to use LinkedIn effectively for building a personal brand and telling your most compelling story. She will be accompanied by two other awesome leaders, Liz Heller (Managing Partner, memBrain), and Tina Sharkey (Founder & CEO, Brandless).

Recognizing the importance of inclusion and diversity in business, Microsoft embarked upon its own journey to reach more diverse talent pools and evolve a culture of inclusivity and empowerment. Slowly but surely, as demonstrated in our 2018 “Diversity and inclusion update,” we’re beginning to see increases in representation that we believe will help us better serve the needs of customers around the globe. At NRF 2019, we plan to share our technology solutions, but we also look forward to taking part in the heart of the thriving retail community, in part through sponsoring The Girls’ Lounge.

Personally, I believe that greater visibility of female leadership can inspire more women to achieve leadership roles. When women support other women, it can have a ripple effect across an entire industry. The Girls’ Lounge offers an opportunity for us to make those connections and build each other up while we make the most during NRF 2019. Come join us!

Find more details on our sessions in The Girl’s Lounge.