WISE annual meeting awards Top Women, inspires attendees

Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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The Women Impacting Storebrand Excellence (WISE) organization is expanding its mission around diversity and inclusion in 2021, and will be looking for companies to work with in piloting new strategies that help promote diversity in hiring and education at companies.

The initiative was announced during the WISE annual meeting that took place Nov. 12 over Zoom. Normally, a luncheon is held as part of the Private Label Trade Show, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was held remotely. Each of the Top Women in Store Brands winners were recognized before the virtual attendees and given a chance to share thanks.

Again, those 2020 winners are: 

  • Jill Dearing, vice president of private brands, C&S Wholesale Grocers, with the lifetime achievement award;
  • Laura Kind, vice president of brand strategy, Wakefern Food, with the recognition in innovation;
  • Katherine Chin, senior director of strategic sourcing, Albertsons, in supply chain/procurement;
  • Krista Daly, director of marketing, Marathon Ventures, in marketing and merchandising;
  • Christine King, director of client services, Daymon, in the operations category;
  • Jackie Caplinger, coordinator of supplier quality, Whole Foods Market, in R&D;
  • Phyllis Johnson, senior director of own brands, Catalina USA, in sales;
  • Kelli O’Neill, assistant corporate treasurer and senior director of finance, TreeHouse Foods, in corporate services;
  • Kathleen Helm, senior manager, private brands, E&J Gallo Winery, with the sparkplug award.

The meeting was kicked off by the new WISE board chair Jen Linke, vice president of private brands, Federated Group, who stepped into the role after Peggy Davies resigned to head up the Private Label Manufacturers Association. Davies was recognized for her efforts leading the organization.

Linke also introduced a new diversity and inclusion initiative that will work with companies to learn better ways to engage with younger generations, learn how to attract and retain diverse employees, educate the industry on diversity and inclusion, and lead and motivate diverse teams. While a champion of diversity and inclusion since the beginning, the organization is looking to do more beyond gender.

The organization presented a new vision statement: “We believe that diversity will drive store brand industry growth. We boldly envision a future where a dynamic and inclusive workforce will be the industry’s core strength.”

WISE also presented a new mission statement: “WISE cultivates diverse collaboration through our programs and provides leadership to empower our industry’s continued success.”

The annual meeting ended with an inspiring keynote message from Katie Sowers, assistant coach, San Francisco 49ers, detailing the diversity roadblocks she faced on her rise to becoming the first female, gay coach in the National Football League. She shared advice on how to respond when facing an intolerant situation as well as advice on how to change thinking like “don’t assume she likes pink,” and the importance of “believing in people” no matter what.