NEW YORK — After a huge initial response, Two Ten Footwear Foundation is prepping to formally debut its Women in Footwear Initiative next month.
The WIFI group — which was formed as part of the organization’s overall strategic plan to better serve its members — will focus on fueling female advancement across the industry through education and mentoring. It is open to all women in the footwear business.
The Aug. 4 kickoff event will be held at the Ogilvy & Mather Building in New York from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. It will feature a networking portion as well as a keynote address from Gilt Groupe CEO Susan Lyne, the former head of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia who also has held top posts at The Walt Disney Co. and ABC Entertainment.
In advance of the formal launch — which is expected to draw about 250 people — WIFI has already hosted several packed gatherings in New York and launched a pilot mentoring program that pairs younger women with more seasoned members of the industry.
“The great elements of WIFI are that it is intergenerational and so aspirational, which is good for strengthening the individuals and the footwear industry as a whole,” said Two Ten President Peggy Kim Meill.
Two of the industry’s top female executives — Brown Shoe Co. President and COO Diane Sullivan and Kohl’s VP and DMM Carol Baiocchi — are heading up the initiative.
“Having been on the Two Ten Board for a fair amount of years now, I noticed the absence of women on the board, but also in management ranks in the industry, particularly in wholesale,” said Baiocchi, who chairs the Two Ten board.
“We were overhauling a lot of the things we did at Two Ten, and it didn’t seem as though we were responding to the people,” she added. “One of the goals was to play some part in a women’s initiative.”
Sullivan said the idea for WIFI was born a few years ago, when a small group of women began getting together in Boston.
“The whole thing started pretty organically,” she said of the initial meetings. “There were so many of us who wanted to figure out how to give back … and [the idea here] is to inspire women and educate them.”
Jennet Chow, VP of design and marketing at Prima Royale and CEO of Evolution Design Lab, is one of the group’s younger members and a mentee in the program. She said she has already benefited greatly from the initial meetings.
“Before, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet a lot of people,” she said. “I got really excited when I heard about people like Diane and Carol, and I feel like I’ve learned so much already. They really motivate me and make me more confident.”
To register for the Aug. 4 event, go to Twoten.org, or contact Meghan Hoyle at 781.736.1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are $75 per person.