SHE-E-O FEATURE OF THE WEEK: Barbara Rentler

How have female CEO’s risen to the top? What was their journey? Let’s explore…

I’m empowered. I have the skills. I’m ready to take on the world. Now, if I could just figure out tangible steps to get there. This series has two purposes: to celebrate women’s accomplishments in business, and to research their path to success.

Notable things you should know about Barbara Rentler:
1) In just 3 years after taking over as CEO, Ross stores hit record annual revenues and profit with stocks returning 95 percent return.
2) Rentler continues Ross’ strategy to avoid moving into e-commerce. Ross has not only evaded the e-commerce slaughter of brick and mortar retail stores, but they successfully expanded to 100 new locations in 2019 with no shortage of profits.
3) Rentler was the only female named out of 100 recipients of Forbes’ America’s Most Innovative Leaders in 2019.
4) Rentler does not disclose her education, her family, or information about what she did before Ross.

How anyone can magically have zero digital footprint before 1986, who knows? Well, I suppose Barbara Rentler knows… she’s more evasive than our previous she-e-o, Phebe Novakovic, who was literally a spy for the government.

What we do know about her background:

She appears to be a lifer at Ross stores. She joined the company at age 28 working in an array of merchandising positions.

16 years later, she was appointed as SVP, General Merchandise Manager. Then 2 years later in 2004 she became Chief Merchandising Officer.

In 2006 she was named EVP of merchandising and was put in charge of all apparel and apparel related products for Ross stores. Within 3 years she was promoted to President.

In 2014, previous long time CEO of 18 years was appointed as executive chairman and Barbara Rentler was named his successor as CEO of Ross Stores.

What I can glean from Barbara Rentler’s background 1) She must be a very talented merchandiser with the ability to find great brands at low prices. 2) She likely has built tremendous relationships as a merchandiser that make her extremely valuable to the company. Perhaps so much so that if they were to lose her, those relationships would go with her to a competitor. 3) Being at one company for over a decade has its value. 4) Having a digital history that starts at age 28 leads me to believe Rentler may not have gone to college, she may have started and raised a family before jumping into the meat of her career. This also gives hope to some of us who are starting their longer-term journey in their late 20’s that we can still make it to CEO!

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