Carol Baiocchi, SVP and DMM of shoes at Kohl’s, remembers a definite tipping point for female footwear executives.
“Vince Camuto set the standard for having women in prominent positions and running divisions. As a woman, it was very impressive,” recalled the executive, who also serves as chairman of Two Ten’s Women in Footwear (WIFI) initiative. “It gave me pause to understand things were really changing.”
Baiocchi said that when she first entered the industry in the 1980s, it was very male-dominated. “It was rare that you interacted with female executives. As time went on, more and more women gained stature.”
Today, the now-seasoned executive has plenty of advice to offer up-and-comers.
“You have to enjoy what you do, encourage yourself to take risks and not be afraid to make a mistake,” Baiocchi said. “[You also have] to be willing to communicate — let people know what you’re thinking and want. Women, too often, don’t want to tout their abilities and successes. I found the more you’re willing to say what you mean and create dialogue, you have the opportunity to have people listen to your ideas and become engaged.”
Baiocchi also encouraged industry newcomers to meet as many people as they can. “Tenacity and gaining as much knowledge as you can [are key]. Meet as many people as you can and [don’t make] assessments,” she said. “Some of the smartest people I met along the way taught me about the business. You have to be open to [everyone] you interact with. That’s how you gain knowledge.”