Shoptalk has made a profound impact on the retail industry since it was founded in 2015. Every year, the event brings together the greatest minds in the industry to discuss emerging trends, best practices, and insider insights, filling its 8,000-plus attendees with inspiration for business growth.

In 2020, Shoptalk is primed to make an even bigger impact on the retail industry by shining a light on the gender gap.

According to The Business Journals, women occupy 25 percent of C-suite positions in the retail industry, and only 12 percent are CEOs. This is an enormous problem that not only impedes the careers of bright individuals, but stunts the growth of the retail industry in general through a lack of diversity in decision-making roles.

In mid-November, Shoptalk announced that 100 percent of its 2020 conference speakers will be women. The decision caused quite a stir in the media, and in the process evoked a meaningful discussion about female leadership. Shoptalk’s Founder and President Simran Rekhi Aggarwal said in a recent interview that, “extreme problems require extreme solutions,” referring to the massive gender discrepancy in leadership positions within the retail industry.

I’m very honored to be a speaker at Shoptalk 2020, in no small part because of its momentous effort to level the playing field. I believe that Shoptalk’s stance will impact the industry in three distinct ways:

Changing the Optics

If you can see someone that looks like you in a leadership position, then it means that it’s possible for you to do the same. This year, Shoptalk is offering so many examples of female leadership that the possibilities for the younger generation are literally indisputable. My hope is that young female managers attending Shoptalk will be inspired by someone they see on stage, and that the potential of their career path will come into focus.

Creating Meaningful Conversations

People are buzzing about Shoptalk’s decision and are generally excited that some new voices are going to be heard. There are some enormously accomplished women speakers presenting at the event from companies like Levi’s, Birchbox, and Facebook. Attendees will talk to other colleagues about these presentations, share on social media, and possibly form connections over them — increasing the power of the speaker. Then, hopefully the speaker will send the elevator down to the next inspiring female professional.

Industry Growth

Hopefully this bold initiative by Shoptalk gets people thinking about their own events and/or companies, and makes them wonder about the women in their organizations. Is there something they’re missing out on by not having more female representation? Are the women they do have in their organization really being heard, and what can they do to ensure that happens?

I think my favorite part about the initiative is that the Shoptalk team isn’t removing companies because it had a male speaker. Rather, they are asking those male speakers to nominate a woman in their company they believe should be heard. That action alone forces everyone to look around and consider the immense value the women around them contribute, and maybe make them wonder why those women weren’t initially chosen.

In Closing

Every single industry can benefit from diversity, whether that be age, race or gender. A lot of that value can’t even be anticipated until you see it in action. At Syte, 50 percent of our workforce is female, and that diversity allows a more holistic view of a given problem and often leads to a unique solution. And, above anything else, there are some very intelligent and thought-provoking individuals out there that deserve to be heard.