Source: Convenience Store News

The convenience store industry’s top female leaders and rising stars were honored Wednesday evening at Convenience Store News’ 2017 Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards reception, following the NACS Show, at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.

The fourth-annual event recognized and celebrated 50 outstanding women in the convenience channel.

Marcia Clark, the lead Los Angeles prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson “Trial of the Century,” served as the first-ever keynote speaker for a TWIC event.

“We are living in an incredible time when women’s voices are being heard and taken seriously,” Clark said. “Now is the time to speak up and accept that this is how things are now.”

The prosecutor and author addressed the crowd of nearly 300 about the challenges she faced throughout her career, including extreme sexism. Although women still face such injustice, they continue to make strides, as exemplified by the night’s TWIC honorees, according to Clark.

“We are witnessing a moment in time of lasting, real change. We cannot let this moment pass us by,” she expressed. “The door has been opened to us.”

The 2017 TWIC honorees included 22 Senior-Level Leaders, 15 Rising Stars and eight Mentors, as well as five female leaders awarded the title of Woman of the Year. Judging was conducted by CSNews in conjunction with NEW and the Top Women in Convenience Advisory Board, which includes the previous year’s five Women of the Year.

The 2017 Women of the Year were: Karla Ahlert, vice president of finance and treasurer, RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.; Elisa Goria, global head of cold dispensed beverages, Circle K Stores Inc.; Ruth Ann Lilly, senior category manager, tobacco, beer, wine and spirits, GPM Investments LLC; Alicia Logan, district sales manager, Chevron ExtraMile; and Lesley Saitta, chief executive officer, Impact 21.

Upon accepting her award, Ahlert said despite the challenges women are up against, there is a “case for optimism.”

“I have two girls and I’m excited for their future. I know they’ll feel bad for men because women keep getting recognized,” she shared.

Goria said she was “honored” to be among a group of women who are part of an industry that they are driving forward. “Remember, Wonder Woman isn’t a fictional character, but a mindset,” the Circle K executive said.

For Lilly, who has spent half her life in the convenience store industry, she said the business has not only been good to her, but has provided her with a platform to teach her children about having a strong work ethic.

Logan thanked her team and her coworkers, and expressed the importance of women in the convenience channel paying it forward and helping others grow.

Although Saitta didn’t get her start in convenience, she said she was “thrilled to be one of the TWIC chosen,” and thanked her husband, children and father, who she said encouraged her and her sister to reach for the stars.

The 2017 Top Women in Convenience awards ceremony was sponsored by founding and presenting sponsor Altria Group Distribution Co.; platinum sponsors R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and Ruiz Foods; gold sponsors Anheuser-Busch, BIC, Campbell’s, The Coca-Cola Co., Ferrara Candy Co., The Hershey Co., Logic Technologies, Mondelēz International, NPD, and Proctor & Gamble; and gift bag sponsor McLane Co. Inc.