Your Legacy Starts Now

Network of Executive Women – Executive Leaders Forum 2012

August 01, 2012

Network of Executive Women – Executive Leaders Forum 2012

Remarks prepared for delivery

Thank you…it is such an honor to be here with all of you today. 

Look around you…you are among the most influential executives in our industry…in the world.

Over 200 women…and more than a few good men…who are serious about helping women achieve what seemed impossible even a decade ago.Thank you…it is such an honor to be here with all of you today. 

You have the power…and the drive to make a meaningful difference.

It is because of you and your efforts that we are seeing more women in leadership roles, but clearly there’s something inside each of you to do more.

And it’s a huge responsibility.  Because we have a lot of work to do.  For ourselves and for others.

We all know the shocking statistics…Women make up more than half of the nation’s managerial and professional workforce but represent only 16 percent of its corporate officers and a miniscule 1.6 percent of the country’s CEOs.

It’s time to change that.  And this fantastic organization (NEW) is certainly leading the way in our industry.

But like any successful movement…any meaningful change…it’s going to take all of us rallying together, united with a singular purpose…taking risks, falling down and getting back up to push this forward.

Without action, it remains a philosophy.  An ideal.

With action, it becomes real.  We can change the world.  We will report new statistics in a few years.  Our daughters and granddaughters will become presidents and CEOs.  That’s the stuff that gets me excited. 

That’s creating a legacy.

And it starts today!

My goal for us today is to walk out of here with real steps for creating your legacy.

I hope you leave feeling empowered and motivated to get out there and live your life with that precious combination of passion and action.

You see…I believe the legacy of our generation will be that we put women at the top! 


So why am I here?

I think I was asked to be here for two reasons: my personal story and I work for Walmart...a leader in our industry that is driving a lot of great progress for women.

Like everyone in this room…Walmart cares about women.  The challenges we face, the multiple roles we play, the lengths we will go to protect and defend our beliefs.

More importantly, Walmart has taken a stand to improve the reality for the female workforce in America and around the globe.  Some of our efforts and progress might surprise you.

We are one of the largest employers of women in the country, with more than 800,000 female associates…that’s about the size of San Francisco.

Nearly 200,000 female associates have worked with us for 10 years or more…pretty high retention…especially for a retailer.

More than half of the hourly associates promoted in our stores last year were women.

In January of this year, we launched a global initiative to source $20 billion in products from women-owned businesses in the U.S. and double our sourcing from women entrepreneurs around the world.

I am really proud of that commitment to my peers and the next generation.

Walmart is passionate about developing, helping and advancing women in our stores and in society -- a mission that makes our partnership with the Network of Executive Women natural and full of promise.

In fact, at the end of June, our president and CEO, Mike Duke, was inducted into the NEW Hall of Fame…recognized for Walmart’s efforts to advance women.  And anyone who knows Mike will tell you that he is fierce in his belief that it’s not only good for business, but it’s the right thing to do.

And that’s really the point.  At Walmart, doing the right thing is a way of life.  And being aggressive about elevating women is doing the right thing.

As for me…I am here because I’m one of the grateful women nurtured and developed by Walmart.

I joined the company in 1992 as an hourly management trainee in Madera, California.  I was able to rise from assistant manager to a salaried store manager in less than four years.  I’ve worked in various capacities in both store operations and human resources, now responsible for 1.4 million associates.

I am here today to represent the 800,000 women who serve America in our stores every single day.

And I am here today to share my story, my lessons, my efforts to create my legacy with all of you.

Now, I know we’ve all been asked what woman we most respect and why.  So I spent some time thinking about that.  Had a lot of answers for different reasons.

I mean…where would we be without Susan B. Anthony?  And Eleanor Roosevelt?  Rosa Parks?  Dolores Huerta?  These incredibly brave women who took a stand and in some cases risked their lives to make ours better.

Many of the lessons I want to share with you today capture what these heroes were all about.

Lesson #1 – Reveal Yourself

So this is the first of my lessons to share with you…Reveal Yourself.

Who are you?  What are you about?  What do you stand for?  What do you want to stand for?

How do others perceive you versus how you want to be perceived?  Are you a collaborative nurturer who is sometimes misread as being “soft”?  Are you more guarded and therefore perceived as being less open to feedback or suggestions?

Can you answer these questions about yourself?  If so, good for you.  Make sure you share it with your teams. 

If not, it’s time to be thoughtful about these things.  I would challenge you to sit down and really think about this.

What are the non-negotiables?  Where can you be more flexible?

What do you do well?  Where do you see opportunity in yourself?

Once you define these parameters for yourself, it’s much easier to act in a way that is consistent with your character.

This is the start of creating your legacy.

It also cultivates respect and clarifies your expectations and your limitations.

Don’t be afraid to be clear about who you are.

Some people will balk.  Some will talk.  But all will be clear.


Lesson #2 – Lose the Guilt

Lesson #2 is Lose the Guilt!

Oh boy...this is one I struggled with.  I consider myself to be a pretty compassionate person.  I will never lose that quality, I hope. 

But I have finally overcome that gnawing guilt that often comes with tough decisions.  The worry of upsetting someone.  The tug of insecurity that someone might disagree with my choice.

I conquered it by realizing that I am confident in my decisions.  I have to be.  I am no longer a prisoner to the fear of making someone sad or upset.

I run a multi-billion dollar business; it’s just not prudent for me to worry if people are bad-mouthing me over a cobb salad at lunch.

But it took some effort on my part.  And I had to dig deep to come to terms with the fact that while I genuinely, genuinely care about the people who work for me, all decisions must be filtered through the lens of our business.   

That’s going to mean hurting some feelings, disappointing someone you consider to be a dear friend.  Everyone’s going to get a little bruised from time to time.  That is life.

Guilt gets in the way of creating your legacy.  Lose it and be free.

So you see…it’s because of this universal girl guilt that we feel like we have to do it all.  But we can’t do it all.  We just can’t.  So that’s my next tip: ask for help!


Lesson # 3 – Take the Lifeline

Why is it so hard to ask for help?  I say…take the lifeline!

Is it because we don’t want to admit that we don’t have all the answers for everything?

Or is it because we feel like we are burdening people and we have a responsibility to find the solutions on our own?

Those who choose to stand alone often pay the price.  They work harder, longer and slower.  They are more isolated.  They lack perspective.  And let’s be honest, they certainly have less fun! 

That ends today...I’m begging you…ask for help.  From people senior to you...and junior to you.  Other women.  And men. 

Men.  They can be our very best assets.  The reality is, the majority of decisions (in the workplace anyway) are still made by men, so they have to be our partners.  Not the enemy.

Ask someone you respect to be a sponsor…a mentor…and take responsibility for making that a meaningful relationship and experience.

When you are uncertain about how to handle a certain situation, ask your team for their input; solicit criticism.  Sometimes it’s not until you invite debate that you discover the holes.  And you make things better than ever.

Sure, it takes courage to open yourself up like that.  To be vulnerable, in a sense.  But isn’t that really when the magic happens?

Aren’t those the moments when a legacy is born?

And think about the benefits of asking for help...learn about yourself, learn about others, come up with better solutions.

Think about what that does for those you ask...they are flattered to be consulted...given a chance to shine.  Powerful stuff.

Lesson #4 – Roar Ladies, Roar

So in an ideal world, we are strutting out of here today with some ideas for how to do things a bit differently: revealing who you are to yourself and others; losing that useless guilt that we all feel at times; and taking that lifeline from those you trust.

And I do mean strutting…which leads to my fourth lesson… roar ladies, roar!

You know, it’s ok to slather on some lip gloss, fluff your hair and embrace your femininity.

Never apologize for being a woman.  Being a woman is a gift. 

Here’s the truth.  Life is more challenging for women.  It just is. 

It seems we wear more hats…we have to work harder…we make more sacrifices…but you know what?

I think the payoff is also greater.  The lessons we are teaching our children, our peers, even our parents evoke pride…they inspire.  They are the stuff legacies are made of.

At work…it’s a fact that we see things very differently than men.  It’s proven that we manage very differently from men.  It’s not that one way is better than the other.  It’s the value of different perspectives that makes a difference.  That is an advantage!  Work it!

Women are naturally good listeners and nurturing; leverage that strength and challenge yourself to use it in your organization and life.

This journey has taught me so much…and I’m a long way from done!  But I’ve learned that being a woman is not a limitation.  Being a Latina is not a limitation. 

Gone are the days that we should have to worry about being too soft or too hard.  Too serious or too relaxed.  Too feminine or not feminine enough.  We should just be.  Be who we are.

To establish a meaningful and sustainable legacy, we must embrace who we are and what we’ve been given.


You have moments in life where you just feel so incredibly lucky…so proud to be a woman.

Today is one of those days for me.

I’m grateful to be in your company…and to see the energy around improving ourselves and advancing women.

I am so lucky to have been given the opportunity to see much of the world in my position at Walmart.  I have met political leaders, celebrities, authors.

But at the end of the day, what matters most to me is how to translate my experiences to my daughters, Kendyl and Kaitlyn…how to share what I am learning in a way that shapes who they are becoming.  That’s the legacy that matters most to me.

And creating a legacy is not a one day project, is it?  It’s a way of life.  Every decision, every choice, every action must be put through the legacy lens.  Every response to a question.  Every reaction to a situation.  Each moment a stroke on the canvas.

So get out there…reflect on who you are, what you stand for and what you want your legacy to be.  And then do it.  No one is going to ask you how you’re doing on your legacy…it’s up to you to define it and live up to it.

I know you will!  I wish you all luck.

Now…I’d like to take about 15 minutes to answer any questions you might have.