Overseeing Image Advertising for Earth's Biggest Retailer

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Julie Lyle has reached Women to Watch status by advancing in very male-dominated areas of the business world, including defense, retail and Japan.

Ms. Lyle arrived at Wal-Mart Stores in 2001 as vice president for international marketing. Her employer’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters hasn’t always been seen as the pinnacle of gender diversity or political correctness. Just ask the former vcie president of marketing of Sam’s Club, who in a deposition for the national class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart recalled once voicing concern to a superior about executives frequently referring to female associates and customers as “girls” and “Janey Qs” during Monday morning merchandising meetings.

Nothing changed after she complained, said the former executive, Rhonda Harper. “I believe,” she added, “that there would be some in the organization who would classify that as a term of endearment.”

Sales and marketing for Raytheon
But Ms. Lyle arrived at Wal-Mart with experience as director of global sales and marketing for the consulting services division of Raytheon -- a largely male-dominated company in the male-oriented technology and defense industry. That seemed like good training for working at the retail giant, says one person familiar with Ms. Lyle.

One of her first assignments was bringing Seiyu, a Japanese retailer in which Wal-Mart took a substantial stake, into the Wal-Mart marketing fold. “She helped establish some of the marketing principles over there,” says the person familiar with Ms. Lyle’s track record. “And to go over to that culture as a female and build the credibility that she did, I think she’s very wise and patient, and should do well [at Wal-Mart].”

Oversees image advertising, in-store
Last year, Ms. Lyle was given the new role of vice president for corporate marketing, advertising and administration at Wal-Mart. Her duties now include overseeing image advertising and in-store creative for Earth’s biggest retailer -- seen by many of its suppliers as the last true mass medium.

“She knows a lot about advertising,” says an executive familiar with Ms. Lyle’s work. “She makes good decisions.”

Wal-Mart didn’t make Ms. Lyle available for comment, but does point to its steadily increasing percentage of women in management, a separate diversity office established in 2003 and a program that links 15% of the compensation of its officers to meeting diversity goals.

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