How One Major Shoe Company is Elevating Female Execs in a Big Way

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Caleres is continuing to make its mark as a major firm with a penchant for gender equality.

The company — helmed by President, Chairman and CEO Diane Sullivan — reached gender parity on its board of directors this week with the addition of MediaLink Vice Chairman Wenda Harris Millard and MagicLeap Chief Marketing Officer Brenda Freeman.

In early 2016, the Women’s Forum of New York recognized Caleres — owner of family footwear retailer Famous Footwear and brands such as Sam Edelman, Via Spiga and Dr. Scholl’s — for having a board composition that is 20 percent female. Appointments in mid-2016 bumped the composition up to 40 percent. Now, with the addition of Freeman and Millard, more than 50 percent of Caleres’ board seats are held by women.

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While recent research has suggested that there is a new wave of consensus and shared effort toward diversity in C-suites across America, many companies continue to miss the mark — making Caleres’ latest accomplishment a rarity.

Most successful companies are always looking at the makeup of their board and asking how they can be more reflective of their customers,” Sullivan told Footwear News last August regarding her firm’s efforts in the realm of gender equality. “It is the right and smart thing to do. You make sure you have all the competencies represented, providing the right insight to support the emerging capabilities in the industry.”

Sullivan’s sentiments also lend credence to research that suggests that companies with women leaders tend to be more progressive in their efforts to elevate women to higher-powered roles.

How we best serve our customers has undergone a sea change over the last five years and it continues to rapidly evolve every day,” Sullivan said of Caleres’ latest board appointments. “Brenda and Wenda’s expertise around emerging consumer technology and trends will greatly benefit us as we continuously look to newer, faster and more creative ways to reach the customer with the shoes and brands they want — when, where and how they want them.”