NATIONAL REPORT — Now in its eighth year, the Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program has recognized more than 300 of the best and brightest women making a positive impact on not only the companies they work for, but also the entire convenience retail channel.
TWIC is the only program that recognizes exceptional female leaders, rising stars and mentors among retailer, supplier and distributor firms in the convenience store industry, from the C-suite to the store level to the independent entrepreneur.
In TWIC Talk, our quarterly Q&A series, we interview a past TWIC winner about what it’s like to be a female leader in the convenience store industry today — the opportunities, the challenges — and get their words of wisdom for up-and-comers seeking to blaze their own trail.
This month’s TWIC Talk subject is Anne Flint, director of category management, tobacco, for EG Group. Having spent her entire career in the c-store industry, Flint worked for Cumberland Farms for 20-plus years before EG Group acquired the chain in late 2019. At that time, she moved into her current role and expanded her responsibility from working with eight states to 31. In 2020, Flint was one of the five women celebrated by TWIC as Women of the Year.
How would you describe the current state of affairs for gender equality in the convenience store industry? How does this compare to 10 years ago?
I think the current state of gender equality in the c-store industry has greatly evolved over the past 10 years. In today’s industry, we see more females in senior leadership roles, which in turn has created greater female mentorship opportunities. Additionally, I have seen greater flexibility provided in the workplace, which can allow females to better achieve both their work and personal goals simultaneously. Although gender equality has evolved across the corporate environment, it is not perfect, and I believe there is still more work to be done to ensure female voices and capabilities are equally valued. This particularly appears to be a gap in the convenience store industry as it has historically been led by males.
What is the most positive change you have personally witnessed?
Personally, the most positive change that I’ve been able to witness throughout my career has been my own ability to move into higher levels of the organization. This has especially impacted me as it was something I did not see as a possibility when first starting my career in the industry. To think back on where I started and see the position I’m in today is truly rewarding to me.
Along your career path, did you personally experience gender bias or inequality? If so, how did you overcome?
Unfortunately, I was given career advice at times in the past that it would not benefit me to pursue higher-level roles as a female. This is certainly difficult feedback to receive and can be challenging to move forward from. For me, I felt greater motivation from this, as I would choose to ignore the negativity and challenge myself to achieve my personal goals and ultimately prove my capabilities. I do believe this type of criticism has lessened as we seem to have shifted to an industry culture where no role is meant specifically for a male or female. We also now see many men mentoring women to help them move into higher positions. I am grateful for our male advocates as they have played a large role in furthering this progress.
What barriers to advancement do you see still existing in the c-store industry?
A barrier I still see in the c-store industry today is that larger expectations may exist for women at times. As much progress as there has been with females moving into higher roles, there still appears to be gaps with female credibility from their male counterparts. I believe that the continued focus on female empowerment across organizations within our industry will continue to strengthen this sense of equality.
What is your advice for other industry women looking to rise to higher ranks?
My advice to our future female leaders is to set your professional goals and surround yourself with people who will help you achieve those goals. It is important to block, but also advocate against, negativity. Continue to keep your expectations high, maintain a strong work ethic and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to prioritize and voice what matters to you.
Linda Lisanti is Editor-in-Chief of Convenience Store News