Can We Talk? A Discussion with Jeff Gennette and James Rhee

On Friday, October 11, Macy’s, Inc. Chairman & CEO Jeff Gennette sat down with James Rhee, Chairman and CEO of Ashley Stewart, for a candid Can We Talk? session to discuss how a clear sense of purpose can guide how we embed diversity and inclusion into how we think, act, and operate.

The inspiring and enlightening discussion focused on how to build a successful mission-driven business through transparency, consumer advocacy, and a culture of kindness.

“It’s not the words you say, it’s what you do,” said Rhee. “Try to be the friend, colleague, boss, partner that you want to have. Can you be that person for other people? There are so many acts of empathy, kindness you can do every day.”

It’s hard to imagine that a newly appointed CEO of a struggling retailer would be interested in anything but the bottom line. But when James took the helm of Ashley Stewart in 2013, he realized it was an opportunity to save a beloved brand that meant so much to an underserved customer base. Even if the numbers didn’t reflect it, James saw the immense value of the company in the people it employed and the communities it served. By emphasizing its people – not just its numbers – and celebrating the Ashley Stewart customer, James guided the company into a profitable and purposeful future.

“All of you happen to be connected at a place called Macy’s,” Rhee shared towards the end of the conversation. “It’s not just a job; you’re in a world called Macy's. And it’s a pretty cool position to be in to want to make a dent on this world.”