Women Leaders in Retail Scholarship

In collaboration with Chief Executive Women (CEW), the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) continues its commitment to empower Australian women in retail with a life-changing opportunity: a scholarship to study a leadership course at the prestigious Harvard Business School in Boston, USA.

As we anticipate our third scholarship opportunity in 2024, we encourage you to submit an EOI below to stay informed about when applications open. Be part of this incredible opportunity to shape your leadership journey in the retail industry!

“Although 75% of discretionary spend is made by women, only 17% of our sector is led by female CEOs, something the ARA is determined to change” said ARA CEO Paul Zahra, reflecting on the ARA Women Leaders in Retail Scholarship.

Meet past scholarship winners

Deb Galle (2023)

GM, Non-Food Business Unit, Coles Supermarkets


Deb is the General Manager for the Non-Food Business Unit at Coles Supermarkets. She leads a large cross-functional team, to drive customer and commercial success across all Non-Food segments. With deep FMCG industry experience across both manufacturing and retail, Deb is known for developing customer-centric growth strategies that deliver impressive commercial outcomes. Her leadership style prioritises values and behaviours to build a supportive, transparent and team based culture. Passionate about FMCG retail, Deb aspires to pursue an executive career in the Retail Industry, driving innovation and transformative change.

Virginia Leaf (2022)

GM, Finance, Wesfarmers OneDigital


Jinni Leaf is a senior retail executive with over 10 years’ experience in finance, strategy and commercial roles. Currently the General Manager Finance at Wesfarmers OneDigital, a major strategic growth initiative for Wesfarmers, she played a key role in setting up the division, developing its strategic plan and supporting the launch of OnePass. She has a track record of leading change and driving performance across multiple Wesfarmers brands. Prior to her current role she spent five years at Target in finance and strategy, including leading Target’s transformation program and strategic reset.

“I had the privilege of attending the High Potentials Leadership Program at Harvard. What an experience! I learned so much about leadership – building teams, driving change, innovation and adversity. It was a truly unique experience to have access to the top faculty lecturers in the world on leadership, as well as connecting with a global group of leaders, and I’ve taken away many things to work on – both immediately in my day job as well as longer term. Thank you ARA and CEW for the amazing opportunity!”

– Virginia Leaf, 2022 Scholarship Recipient

About the scholarship

Inclusions and obligations

  • The successful candidate must undertake a course at Harvard Business School
  • The successful candidate must commit to attend the whole course.
  • The successful candidate is required to write a report about her scholarship experience and may be asked to speak at CEW events
  • On completion of the course, the successful candidate will become a member of the CEW alumni community, CEW Connect
  • The successful candidate must complete the course within 18 months of award

Who should apply?

  • Applicants must work in the retail sector and their organisation be an ARA member
  • Mid to senior executive (CEO, or no more than 3 levels down from CEO)
  • 5 or more years general management experience (i.e., business unit, line or functional management incorporating key responsibilities such as P&L management, strategic planning, and people leadership)
  • Endorsement from senior management or the Board of her organisation
  • Applicants must attend the prescribed Women’s Leadership Forum Harvard Business School course
  • Australian citizen or permanent resident

Submit EOI

Scholarship applications for the upcoming year will open in March 2024. Register your Expression of Interest (EOI) below to be notified when applications open. 

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You're invited: International Women’s Day Luncheon 2024

Friday 8 March 2024
12.00pm – 3.00pm

You’ll join the brightest minds and female innovators in retail. Forge connections and partnerships whilst hearing about the issues and opportunities facing women in retail. Help shape our conversation and drive positive change.