Top female leaders in N.J. sorry to see Morrison out at Campbell Soup

Lt. Governor Kim Guadgano attends the NJ State Firemen’s Association 140th Convention In Wildwood. (NJ Office of Information Technology)

Friday’s sudden retirement of Denise Morrison, CEO and president of the iconic Campbell Soup Co., not only will be a loss for Camden but for the progression of women in business in New Jersey entirely, former Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said.

“I had the pleasure of working with Denise as she implemented her vision not only for Campbell’s but for Camden,” Guadagno, now a partner at Connell Foley in Jersey City, said. “No single person has done more for her business and community than Denise.

“A Jersey girl through and through, she will be missed.”

As women always have been underrepresented in the C-suite, Guadagno added, Morrison, too, is another loss, as the number of female CEOs in New Jersey running one of the state’s top companies decreases from seven to six.

“I do believe, however, that role models like Denise provide proof that there are pathways for women,” Guadagno said. “No doubt Denise is both an example and a mentor for the next generation of women in leadership roles in corporate America.”

Barbara Kauffman, president-elect of Executive Women of New Jersey and executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Newark Regional Business Partnership, said she remembered when Morrison was the keynote speaker at EWNJ’s first “A Seat at the Table” event in 2014.

It was then that the senior-level executive women’s organization issued its inaugural report on gender diversity on boards and in the senior leadership of public companies in New Jersey.

(READ MORE from ROI-NJ on Denise Morrison’s retirement and her interim successor.)

“She is a longstanding supporter of the work that we do and a leader in advancing women to the highest ranks of her organization,” Kauffman said. “Under her stewardship, her board has nearly attained gender parity, which is significantly better than most companies in the state.

“Denise was not just a leader in achieving greater gender diversity, she also was an effective and successful CEO. She became CEO of Campbell Soup Co. in 2010 and by 2016 had doubled the company’s stock price. It is disappointing to see us move backwards in terms of the number of women CEOs in New Jersey, particularly given their demonstrable success.”

Sally Glick, principal and chief growth strategist at Sobel & Co. in Livingston, said that, with little information regarding what precipitated Morrison’s sudden exit from Campbell, it was difficult to respond.

“But it is always disheartening to see the number of women in high profile (or any) positions diminishing,” Glick said. “We continue to be reminded of the poor representation of women in Fortune 500 CEO roles, but must remain vigilant, encouraging women to help each other and building awareness across the corporate community of the financial, managerial and operational advantages for companies that strongly embrace diversity, including gender, generational and cultural.”

Keith McLoughlin, a Campbell board member since 2016 and former CEO and president of Electrolux AB, a global manufacturer of major household appliances, has been named interim CEO.

The board will begin a search for a permanent CEO immediately.