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We had a piece yesterday about how Albertsons has a board of directors on which six of 11 members is a woman – and in fact, its percentage of board women, 54.5 percent, is the highest rate of the world’s 200 biggest companies. The company also says that 30 percent of its senior executives are women. And we noted, in our commentary, that whatever else you say about Albertsons, this is a positive trend…because it still is women who do most of the shopping.

We got a lot of email in response to this piece…

One MNB user wrote:

I have the following questions I'd be curious to hear Larry Johnston answer:

1. How was Albertsons able to build a coast to coast grocery chain that was highly profitable without having more women in leadership positions?

2. Hasn't Albertsons' lost market share principally gone to companies like Wal-Mart and Costco, companies whose business models and execution have come primarily from white men?

3. What were the moves that women in more powerful positions in Albertsons would have made that would have prevented the company's decline had they the chance?

4. Has the increase of women in powerful positions at Albertsons brought about policies or initiatives that have led to significant sales increases to women?

5. Over the next 18 months you plan to outfit all of your stores with handheld scanners so the customers can scan their groceries while they shop. Is this an example of one of those ideas that an Albertsons woman came up with and no man, however smart, could have? Is this something women customers have been calling for?

These questions are not intended to demean any women or their contributions at Albertsons or anywhere else. They are honest, challenging questions. But they request the proof that Larry Johnston's embracing of popular ethics delivers on the business promises he claims for them. I'm not aware of these promises being kept.

MNB user Janine Bauer wrote:

I come from a legacy of independent working women in my family. My grandmother supported her family through the depression and divorced my grandfather at a time when it was frowned upon. My mother sits at the senior management table for her company and I am the first female to obtain my degree and looking forward one day to sitting at a table.

I can't believe corporate America is beginning to get a clue 85 years after the woman's movement. It just makes good common sense that women make up more than half of the population and do most of the shopping, so it is only logical that we should have at least equal say in the board room. Even though some corporations are finally realizing our potential, they are still not paying us equally for it. It would be interesting to find out if the total compensation package (salary, bonus, stock options, benefits and all) of these female executives are being paid equally to what their male counterparts are earning.

Another MNB user wrote:

Most boards of directors are composed of what might be called the "business elite." They hold positions of power within other organizations, money is plentiful, and time is limited. With that in mind, I'm left wondering how many of the women on Albertson's board actively and regularly do the shopping and make the "buying decisions" for groceries in their homes?

The assumption seems to be that since Albertson's has more women on their board, they are automatically more in tune to the needs of shoppers than similar companies since women make the majority of the buying decisions in supermarkets. I can agree with that to a certain point, but the "insight, knowledge and expertise" of these women will be "invaluable" only as it's relevant. If they don't get out to do the shopping any more than their male counterparts who serve on boards all across this country, what difference does it make how many women are on the board? If "experience is the best teacher," then there has to be something said for women, and men, getting out where the rubber meets the road if they're going to provide truly compelling input that really can and does make a difference in the shopping environment and experience.

Yet another MNB user wrote:

I find it interesting that when making a case for gender differences that tips in favor of men, it is likened to gross and ignorant discrimination. When the bias tips in favor of women (in this case, rewarding a majority of these high-level jobs with prestige, power and compensation to women) it is portrayed as long-overdue common-sense thinking. Hmmm.

Also, there is some irony in that a news piece that rails against “old white guys” is begun by an announcement from an “old white guy” CEO.

Nevertheless, I think this is the vital question - do any of these women do the bulk of their own shopping? I find that there is no gender bias when it comes to out-of-touch executives.

MNB user Tina Roberts wrote:

Women are primary shoppers, regardless of economic status and/or career status. Even busy corporate executives that happen to be women (like the board members at Albertson) likely are the primary shopper. What better way to influence the shopping experience than having women participate in the process. Albertson's proves that women aren't just a focus group but a strategy!

Despite convenience, I'll be shopping Albertson's more often to see how they're going to apply the knowledge they've strategically captured in the board. Kudos to Albertsons! Gee, where's Wal-Mart on women? Busy fighting litigation I suppose…

And MNB user David J. Livingston wrote:

Regardless of how many women Albertsons puts on their board or hires at the executive level, I doubt they will use their insight correctly. Albertsons just has too many problems beyond their control. First is the rapid expansion of the competition in the areas that Albertsons competes. Second Albertsons is publicly owned and therefore a slave to Wall Street. Their priority is to try to maintain their stock price, so implementing any of the good ideas these women have would be out of the question. While Albertsons is getting feminized on one hand, they continue to cut labor, spread store director responsibilities over several stores, or implement last ditch efforts of converting low volume stores to low volume price impact stores. Seems the biggest cheerleaders that Albertsons has is their competition who are the beneficiaries of all their bright ideas.
KC's View: