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    Opening the (Talent) Pipeline

    Speedway values diversity and its CFO Beth Hunter is leading the way.

    By Joan Toth, Network of Executive Women (NEW)

    Speedway LLC — the nation’s second-largest company-owned and operated convenience store chain — is known for its successful marketing strategies (more than 4 million loyalty program members), its customer service (download the Speedway app) and its strong community outreach. Less known is Speedway’s commitment to gender diversity.

    Chief financial officers, like Speedway's Beth Hunter, like to talk numbers. Recently, she shared a few eye-openers with me. Women, she noted, make up fewer than 10 percent of the petroleum industry's 186,000 employees. But at Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC), Speedway's parent company, women comprise 20 percent of employees.

    At U.S. fuel dealers, Beth told me, just over 40 percent of employees are women. At Speedway, operator of 2,750 stores, nearly 65 percent of employees are women, a number that has held steady for several years. Half of its store managers and supervisors are women.

    Beth is a living example of gender diversity. She started her career in petroleum marketing in 1987, when J.R. and Bobby were still feuding over Ewing Oil (for those millennials out there, that’s the once popular “Dallas” TV series). She has personally experienced the c-store industry's evolving workplace culture, one that increasingly values — and benefits from — the insights, experiences and leadership qualities of talented women.

    “Opportunities for women to advance to leadership roles is improving,” she told me, “and from my vantage point, it looks like women's leadership will not only continue to improve, but accelerate. There are very talented, driven women in management positions. I believe there’s a pipeline of strong talent that we will see reflected in leadership over the next several years.”

    Beth said a “push” and “pull” approach has opened doors for women at Speedway. “When it comes to pull, management can and should continually look for new ways to identify and acquire high-potential talent, encourage women to seek out leadership roles and help them succeed,” she said. “But there must also be push — and this is the more important driver. Women need to prepare for leadership roles and seek them out.”

    Avoiding Traps, Taking Risks

    Women need to avoid the traps that tend to stall their careers. One of these traps, according to Beth, is defining yourself too narrowly.

    “I’m an accountant by training,” she told me, “but when there was an opportunity to work in sales, purchasing and investor relations — all of which helped give me the breadth of experience needed for my current position — I gladly accepted the assignments.”

    It’s also important to manage your career and take risks. “Some of the positions I took were outside my comfort zone, but it’s very rare for anyone to make great career leaps while remaining in a comfortable position," she said. "And, of course, some career moves don’t work out and you’ll have to correct your course. Taking risks is an important part of advancement.”

    By Joan Toth, Network of Executive Women (NEW)
    • About Joan Toth Joan Toth is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, Retail and Consumer Goods, a learning and leadership community representing 10,000 members, 750 companies, 100 corporate partners and 20 regional groups in the United States and Canada.

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