Rebeca Estela Tovar Gálvez – C&A México
Still fairly new as the legal manager at fast-fashion retailer C&A México, Rebeca Estela Tovar Gálvez showed the executive team just how quickly she could adjust to changing circumstances last year.
COVID-19 had forced the temporary closure of all 79 stores in March and April 2020, but largely through the efforts of Tovar and other company personnel, within two weeks C&A was selling its products online through Latin America’s most popular e-commerce site, Mercado Libre.
Seventy-five of those stores have since reopened, but with shopper habits likely forever changed, C&A is well on its way to launching its own platform to accommodate online customers. That’s been keeping Tovar busy, as she ascertains the necessary security measures and compliance protocols.
“In the wake of the pandemic, we have had to be disruptive and think outside the box,” she tells Vanguard this past May from C&A’s Guadalajara headquarters. “By using a less archaic system, we will have better projected sales and be able to tropicalize products by zones.”
The most challenging aspect has been legislation in the evolving area of e-commerce, Tovar goes on to say. It includes a mishmash of issues such as data privacy, codes of ethics in electronic commerce, intellectual properties, the handling of online payments and so much more. A host of new provisions came out in February, and that’s among the many areas where she is proving a fast learner.
Which is only to be expected by her bosses, who recruited Tovar for the position in 2018, noting how she had distinguished herself during a 16-year career, her previous stint being legal boss for Arriva Hospitality Group from 2015 to 2018.
ESG fashioned here
She has relished the C&A role and applauds the company’s commitment to ESG initiatives—environmental, social and governance—noting its sustainable model and inclusionary workplace.
The same can’t be said of the fashion industry, Tovar reminding that it’s one of the biggest polluters, but C&A seeks to set a better example of how to care for the environment. Fifty-four percent of the products are manufactured by Mexican maquiladoras—factories that must meet high quality and certification standards, in compliance with International Labour Organization principles. Organic cotton is the favored material in most garments, and from a legal perspective Tovar ensures that suppliers align with C&A’s mission.
That mission, which extends to personnel policies, includes gender equity—currently half of the company’s workforce is women. C&A is also recognized for its support of LGBTIQ+ causes and is certified. Although the temporary closure of 79 stores due to the pandemic was a difficult situation to handle, Tovar helped the company mitigate the legal difficulties it generated, including employee-related issues.
“From the human side, the workforce was maintained without a salary reduction,” she says. “The company developed financial strategies to reduce other expenses.”
They sought balances in the payment of rents, often garnering empathy from landlords who understood the plight of a retailer whose income had been cut off, she adds. While four stores won’t reopen, Tovar is helping the company open a new store by year’s end.
“The pandemic has been a revolution for us,” she says. “We’ve revised protocols in each state, been attentive to changes in legislation and monitored the conditions that have kept us in business.”
Growth back on agenda
So it’s been a fulfilling three years for Tovar, who’s now in her second in-house position. An ITESO Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara undergrad and law grad, she began her career clerking in the First Judicial District in the state of Jalisco in 2004, then spent three years with as many firms and became a specialist in civil, commercial, labor and family law.
That prepped her well for her first in-house role from 2006 to 2014 at Grupo Omnilife-Chivas, a Guadalajara-based multi-level marketing company that distributes supplements. Starting off as a labor lawyer, she earned two promotions and spent her last three years as divisional legal leader for multilevel and international affairs.
At Arriva she made a quick impact, strengthening the legal function and contributing to a productivity increase of 70 percent. Tovar established internal control mechanisms for risk management, cost reduction and regularized compliance. She also introduced internal legal audits.
And she caught the attention of the C&A brass, who welcomed her into the fold in March 2018 as a legal manager, entrusting her with standardizing the department to reduce legal contingencies and improve internal customer service. In October 2019, she was promoted to her present capacity and a few months later helped guide the company through an unprecedented crisis.
The worst is presumably over, and C&A can now refocus on growth. But it’s the company’s focus on other matters that’s of just as much interest to Tovar. She likes to share time with her husband and three children and wants to be a role model—not only for her children—for all young people.
She reminds women are still underrepresented in managerial ranks and hopes her own professional access inspires females of all ages to believe and achieve. The same applies to queer and transgendered people, many of whom aren’t fortunate enough to work in such a welcoming environment as C&A, she says.
“I would like to be in an association seeking to be influential in gender equity issues and positioning of women in high positions in management,” Tovar says. “Gender equity is of great interest to me, and I’m glad to be at a company that shares my passion.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Summer III 2021 Edition here.
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