Women in Retail Leadership Circle’s recently released 2022 Top Women in Retail report honors women who have excelled in their field. The report features several Women on the Rise — female retail executives who are climbing the ranks and will be the next generation of industry leaders.

Many of these featured women attributed communication and curiosity as key skills in their career development. During the COVID-19 pandemic and the work-from-home era, they also noted that strong relationships were necessary.

Five of our Women on the Rise shared similar insights into the skills that were instrumental in propelling their careers forward:

Nykeba King, Global Head of Inclusion and Belonging, THE BODY SHOP

(King identifies as nonbinary and would like to be represented as their authentic self in their acceptance of this award.)

“My ability to motivate and inspire people. I pride myself on helping people to see their full potential and their ability to reach that potential. To use a sports analogy, I think of myself as a players’ coach. I’m a very empathic person and lead with a level of humanism that prioritizes people’s wellness. That focus helped me with my transition from retail sales to my role now as an inclusion manager. I started with The Body Shop nine years ago as a store manager — holding many positions along the way — and the most transferable skill across every job was just that: empathy and putting people first. If you prioritize individuals and strive to create motivated and enthusiastic teams, success will follow.”

Michelle Harding, Vice President of Stores, Pet Supplies Plus

“Being a good listener and emotionally connecting with people has been so important to my career development. Flexibility and adaptability are also essential in a retail environment. I also believe that I’ve learned so much from taking ownership of processes and projects and being accountable for the results. With Pet Supplies Plus, I’ve been empowered to take risks and embrace the occasional failure, learning from the experience.”

Michelle Deutsch, Senior Director, Affiliate and Paid Media, Bloomingdale’s

“The most important skill I’ve found is the ability to form strong relationships. The relationships I made early on in my career have propelled me to new opportunities, both professionally and personally. I’ve had a client create a position for me and bring me in-house, a rep recommended me for my current position with Bloomingdale’s, and I was even introduced to my husband by a former rep, who became my close friend. Her husband and mine are childhood best friends.”

Nina Love, Regional Director, Signet Jewelers and Banter By Piercing Pagoda

  • “Learning to ask questions; good probing questions. As a young leader, I thought leadership was giving direction. As I matured in my leadership, I learned what a gem self-discovery was and learned to ask questions — good, probing questions. This was so important to me that I’ve made it a major focus as I coach my leaders.”
  • “Listening open-mindedly to well-intentioned feedback. In my early years, I had a tendency to get defensive when I received feedback. I had a leader who was kind enough to call me on it. It wasn’t easy to change, but I eventually learned to listen with an open mind and take time to process before responding. This has been key to helping me grow in my leadership. Now I look forward to feedback knowing that it’s a way for me to improve.”
  • “Be a good listener. I’ve always had the ability to lead intuitively. Once I coupled that with solid listening skills, I was able to make even stronger connections with my leaders and my team in general. Listening allowed me to probe for details, which gave me additional insight and allowed me to support my leaders in new ways to help them problem solve, analyze business, and develop their teams.”

Blair Saeks, Senior Director, Retention Marketing, Under Armour

“Adaptability, empathy and humility. I’ve worked my entire career in the digital space — it’s ever-changing and takes a village to drive meaningful experiences for consumers. The ability to iterate and evolve as things change, cultivate trust, inspire great talent, and collaborate humbly have all been critical to my success over the years.”

Read more interviews from our 2022 Top Women in Retail report, including other Women on the Rise honorees, by downloading it here.