The Most Powerful Women in Retail

Meet the 2015 Most Powerful Women in Retail.

Several years ago I wrote a column wondering why there weren't more powerful women in retail. It was a response to Forbes' annual Most Powerful Women list, one that included preciously few women from this industry.

That was in May 2013. There were seven women in retail named to the list, although two—Spanx founder Sara Blakely and Tory Burch— were primarily designers with a foothold in retail.

At the time, I wrote: 

"This is an industry who's primary customer base is female. Apparel retailers, department stores, discount stores and supermarkets all refer to their customers as 'she.' Even consumer electronics and home improvement retailers have come to see beyond the traditional male shopper and embrace the role women play as both influencers, decision makers and buyers in these product categories. So after decades of retail industry growth, where are the women leaders?

"Women shop for, consume and prepare a majority of products purchased today. Every retail executive is devoted to finding out what makes her tick. Why haven't more woman risen from the ranks of the 15 million U.S. retail employees to lead these companies?"

The problem was not that there should be more female representation simply to level the scales, but in a business that typically refers to its customers as "she," it made little sense that so many of its most influential leaders were men.

Women, it seemed to me, would not only be better able to relate to their customers, but would have more insight into what they expected from the stores and merchandise selection as well.

A year later when Forbes updated the list, the names and number of female retail luminaries remained the same. That time around, Forbes linked the new issue to my year-old column on its website. Because nothing had changed, the column read as though it had been freshly written for the 2014 list, which was released just prior to Walmart's annual shareholder meeting.

When I arrived in Bentonville, Arkansas, for the event, quite a few members of the Walmart and Sam's Club communication teams were eager to discuss the story, thinking it had just been written. It was an easy mistake to make, given the reality of those rankings.

Change has been slow to come to retail.

And that is why we chose to launch the FierceRetail inaugural list of the Most Powerful Women in Retail.

It's heartening to see women in top leadership roles at leading retailers such as Apple, Sam's Club and TJX.

It's especially heartening to include Sam's Club President and CEO Rosalind Brewer, whose media relations team has been a great advocate of her abilities and need for recognition. Brewer was invited to speak at Forbes' Most Powerful Women Summit this year and is No. 65 on the list.

FierceRetail is a young publication and for our first list, we combed through corporate directories, cross-referenced other awards programs (including Forbes) and scoured women's groups and organizations.

In the end, we decided to feature only those women in president or CEO positions, and only those at traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

We apologize to those we may have missed and hope to be forgiven for any slights. We hope readers will send us their thoughts and suggestions.

We are just getting started. -Laura

Laura Alber, director, president and CEO, Williams-Sonoma

Angela Ahrendts, senior VP of retail and online stores, Apple

Shari Ballard, president of US retail and chief human resources officer, Best Buy

Rosalind G. Brewer, president and CEO, Sam's Club

Lizanne Kindler, CEO, Talbots

Kay Krill, president and CEO, Ann Inc.

Carol Meyrowitz, chairman and CEO, TJX Companies, Inc.

Barbara Rentler, CEO and director, Ross Stores

Laura Sen, president and CEO, BJ's Wholesale Club

LuAnn Via, president and CEO, Christopher & Banks


The Most Powerful Women in Retail