Women Who Rock: Libby Edelman on Leading by Example

Libby Edelman admits that she got off to a rocky start in the fashion industry, due to some difficult female coworkers.

“I went to work for a magazine and the women were horrible. They didn’t care how they treated people,” the SVP of Sam Edelman recalled. Luckily, she landed at Seventeen and the experience was completely different. “Midge Richardson ran it and she was a great mentor to me. She treated everyone with respect and it filtered down through the staff.”

That’s why it’s so important for Edelman to be a strong mentor for her employees at Sam Edelman. “We have almost all women, very few men who work for us. We’re trying to teach them by example,” she said. “They have lots to give us — they certainly keep me young and in touch with all the digital stuff — but at the same time they’re learning from those of us who are wiser.”

With the millennial generation in particular, it’s important not to give them strict parameters when it comes to doing their jobs, she said. “Maybe they’re going to do it a totally different way than you would have told them,” she said.

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Edelman said she revels in watching a young employee give a presentation for the first time. “It’s very rewarding and fun,” she said, noting that her business family is almost as important her own personal family (who she happens to work with).

Overall, Edelman also stressed the importance of encouraging more women to rise through the ranks via programs like WIFI and more interaction with fashion schools. “We definitely need to have more women who are either leading [companies] or designing the clothes and shoes because we are wearing them,” she said. “In the end, we know what feels right and what’s going to work.”

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