Creating a Gender-Inclusive Culture

By Stephanie Nycum Doliveira

At Sheetz, people are at the center of everything we do. We pride ourselves in having an employee-centric culture. But in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the murder of George Floyd, we acknowledged we were behind in our diversity and inclusion efforts. An authentically inclusive workplace with diverse representation at all levels doesn’t just happen. It requires intentionality and effort.

This realization meant we quickly needed to learn, listen, be vulnerable and humbly approach this culture-shifting work. We named it our IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility) initiative, an integral part of our corporate strategy. Placing the “I” at the beginning was intentional.

Why start with inclusion? We learned that a culture with strong underpinnings of inclusion is foundational to embracing diverse perspectives. A company made up of diverse individuals isn’t automatically inclusive. To create this desired culture, we must actively inspire each employee to open their hearts and minds.

We know barriers still exist. Due to cultural mindsets and stereotypes, many barriers are overlooked but impact several diverse groups, including women. We see the challenges faced on their paths toward leadership, flexible work arrangements, and equal pay, among others.

As a caregiver – a mother of two sons and daughter of aging parents – I understand the juggling act that tends to fall on women’s shoulders. Add in a demanding career … and the mental load is real! I’ve learned the key to leading people toward change lies in the relationships we build through shared experiences. Because of the roles I play, at home and at work, I’ve been able to steer our company toward intentionally creating a space for woman to succeed.

As part of our IDEA initiative, we’ve acknowledged that our female employees at Sheetz need and deserve our attention to create a gender-inclusive culture. After all, more than 60% of our store managers, assistant store managers and supervisors are women! We’re working to raise awareness about women’s issues and change behavior to create a great workplace for all. This has been put into action in several ways.

At Sheetz, we are a family—which means we support and take care of each other. This includes listening to our women’s concerns and finding ways to make their lives better. That’s why we implemented a maternity leave program that offers eligible Sheetz new moms 100% of their weekly pay for a full 12 weeks. This benefit offers economic security while allowing that important time to bond and form an attachment with their newborn!

Access to high quality child care is also critical, especially for working women. For the past 15 years, I’ve been involved with the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission, making the success of young children a top priority. At Sheetz, we also offer an on-site child-care facility called Little Sproutz Early Learning Center at our Operations Support Center in Claysburg, Pennsylvania, for the children and grandchildren of our Sheetz employees. It can be difficult to find reliable and affordable child care, and we wanted to take that burden off the plates of working parents on our operations support campus.

In 2020, we introduced the Sheetz EDGE (Education and Development through Group Experience) Women’s Leadership Program—an amazing sisterhood of women leaders across our organization. This program gathers and engages strong women leaders to build a network for growth, exchange and support. In addition, we launched employee resource groups, providing underrepresented employees an amplified voice and network of support. A group dedicated to supporting Black employees launched first, with other groups forming to support Women, LGBTQIA+ and Latinx employees.

We know the balancing act that is work-life balance and career success. Last year, we implemented a hybrid/virtual commuter policy—allowing eligible employees flexibility to work several days from home or fully remote. In our stores, we reduced the scheduled weekly hours for managers and assistant managers … but for the same pay. Both of these changes have helped reduce the stress of day-to-day family life, both on parents and their children.

Sheetz is proud to offer these benefits to help create an equitable workplace for women, but diversity and inclusion is more than programs and policies. This is a journey. With more than 675 stores in 6 states and 25,000 employees, we can’t afford not to invest in our people through respect and meaningful listening.

As Executive Vice President of People and Culture, I’m committed to ensuring Sheetz takes an intentional, human-centered approach to our IDEA efforts—meeting people where they are. It’s a title and task I’m honored to have, and one I don’t take lightly!

Opening our hearts and minds not only creates a better work environment, but it’s a chance to embrace humanity, making a better world. We’re committed to creating that better world!


Stephanie Nycum Doliveira is Executive Vice President, People & Culture at Sheetz, Inc.