CSD: Sonja Hubbard Paves The Way For Women In Retailing
By Erin Rigik
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.
As CEO of Texarkana, Texas-based E-Z Mart Stores Inc., which operates more than 300 stores in five states, Sonja Hubbard is a true c-store industry veteran.
Ms. Hubbard was just a child when her father, Jim Yates founded E-Z Mart in 1970. She joined E-Z Mart full time after graduating from the University of Arkansas and has been with the company for more than 20 years, serving as assistant controller, controller and chief financial officer before taking the helm, following the untimely death of her visionary father in 1998.
In addition to her position at E-Z Mart, Ms. Hubbard has been very active with NACS over the years. Before taking on the role of 2008-2009 NACS Chairwoman, she served as the NACS treasurer, and also has been a member of the NACS Supplier Board and the NACS Convention and Events Committee.
While some leaders would feel the stress of the additional industry responsibilities, Ms. Hubbard has thrived and said she is pleased to be a woman at the forefront of a predominately male dominated industry.
“It is rewarding and exciting to think that women have made such strides, especially in an industry like ours that is so very male dominated at the top,” she said. “At the same time, it is comforting that gender hasn’t really been an issue. The fact that women are accepted and considered as peers proves we’ve come a long way and that this is a great industry to be part of.”
Ms. Hubbard regularly encourages other women to take a hard look at the c-store industry as a viable career choice. “The industry has so much more to offer than most see from the outside, or have stereotyped it to be,” she said. “This is a fast-paced, rapidly changing industry with unlimited opportunities. I love that in this business you can never be bored. I also believe that our companies are eager to see more women in leadership roles in the c-store industry, creating even more options and opportunities for success.”
Other female executives that have opened doors include Becky Shotwell, president of Stop-N-Go in Medina, Ohio; and Andrea Jackson, president and chief operating officer of Jackson’s Food Stores in Idaho. At NACS, Jennie Jones of S&D Coffee is the first female to take on the role of supplier board chairman, and Jenny Bullard, chief information officer of Flash Foods, was the first female chair of NACSTech.
“The fact that so many women are stepping forward and up, proves that I’m not an anomaly, but instead we’re actually viable candidates for leadership,” Ms. Hubbard said.
She also advised aspiring female leaders to know what they bring to the table and to use their individual talents to their advantage. “For years women tried to be men in business, and that was a mistake. We bring distinct qualities that should be celebrated, just like those of our male counterparts.”
Discussion Questions: Is the retail industry doing enough to promote women in management ranks? To what degree does a glass ceiling still exist? What advice would you give to a woman trying to work her way into retail management?