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How one woman plans to overhaul the culture at the world's largest jewelry retailer

·Former Correspondent
In this article:
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  • SIG

Virginia C. Drosos, the new CEO of Signet Jewelers (SIG), has been working to turn around the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewelry since taking the helm in August 2017.

A key part of her three-pillar turnaround plan, known as “The Path To Brilliance,” is transforming the company’s culture.

A year ago, Signet, which is the parent company to well-known brands such as Kay Jewelers, Zales and Jared: The Galleria of Jewelry, found itself at the center of allegations of pay discrimination and sexual harassment, which were detailed in a Washington Post story. By the summer, then-CEO Mark Light resigned, with the company citing “health reasons.”

“Firstly, I’d say, number one, I have a track record throughout my career of building diverse teams and highly inclusive culture, so it’s very important to me that Signet lead in this area,” Drosos told Yahoo Finance. “The second thing is that I’ve reviewed all the data and I can say that now I’m very confident that we pay women equally for equal jobs with the same experience. We are really building a culture of diversity, inclusion, [and] respect. This is part of our transformation.”

Another step the company has made under Drosos’s leadership is making the board of directors an even split of men and women.

Signet CEO Gina Drosos has been working to transform the company’s culture by focusing on diversity and inclusion.
Signet CEO Gina Drosos has been working to transform the company’s culture by focusing on diversity and inclusion.

“Diverse teams make better decisions. They see each other’s blindspots” Drosos said. “I think it’s true on working teams just as much as it is on boards. So, first and foremost, we want to get great executives on our board that have tremendous experience.”

In March, Signet added Sharon McCollam, the former CFO of Best Buy, and Nancy Reardon, the former head of human resources and chief communications officer for Campbell Soup, to its board.

“That’s part of what we want to do is transform our culture so fabulous executives, who are also women, that will bring that diversity and help us see our blindspots.”

In corporate America, it’s well-known that women and other minorities are still noticeably underrepresented on corporate boards. Since 2009, executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles has published its Board Monitor, which tracks the filling of vacant board seats. In 2016, the most recent report available, Fortune 500 companies filled empty 421 seats, with 117 of those seats, or 27.8%, going to women, down from the 119 women who filled the 399 empty seats the previous year, representing a 2% drop, or the first decline in seven years.

“I think it’s really incumbent on leaders like me to create a culture where everyone feels that their capabilities are fully unleashed, where people feel they can bring their whole selves to work every day,” Drosos said.

She added that 75% of Signet’s employees are women and 68% of the field leadership positions are filled by women. What’s more, more than half of Signet’s c-suite is now women.

“I think women need to be put in crucible roles where they can really test their skills and learn as they go so that they can rise to those higher level positions.”

For more with Drosos:

Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.