Women Who Rock: Seychelles’ Sari Ratsula on Overcoming Gender Bias

Sari Ratsula, president of Seychelles Imports LLC., offers up some words of wisdom about perseverance and believing in yourself.

Overcoming obstacles: “The biggest challenge I faced was in my late 20’s when I was working at Vans as a VP of Design & Development and the rest of the executive team was men. I worked closely with our sales team and especially with our VP of Sales. When he decided to leave the company, I was promoted to SVP of sales, design and development. My first meeting in my new role was with one of our largest national retailers. I had a good rapport with their senior buyer because we had worked together for years, but our VP of Sales had always been present. When I met with him the first time by myself, he said that he could not work with me because I was a woman. He clearly felt my role could not expand beyond trends and design. Regardless of how I felt, I had a job to do and told him that it was not an option. After some awkward moments, we got into talking about our business and ended up having a great meeting, and throughout the years, our business grew.”

Advice for up-and-comers: “While it might feel scary at first, the best thing you can do is to ask questions and listen. Great things in life happen through innovation and experience, so always cherish both. Also, don’t be shy. Believe in yourself and what you do, but never become arrogant.”

Biggest female mentor: “My mother. She always said, “No one will lift the cat’s tail unless she does it herself.” I learned to take care of things and always be responsible no matter what. It’s the biggest gift she could have ever given to me as I truly believe in individual responsibility.”

Woman she admires in the footwear industry: In business, and unbeknownst to her, Carol Baiocchi has guided me in my career since we first met in the early ’90s. She was straight with me and while her questions were challenging, she was always very supportive. She was the person I called for guidance when I was considering my move to Seychelles.”

Encouraging more diversity: “We need to stop judging people based on their gender, color, age, religion, sexual preference, etc. What’s important is what’s in our hearts and heads. With hard work and desire, women can go as far as they want to. So be open minded as you never know where the next brilliant idea or future leader comes from.”

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