At Footwear News’ CEO Summit in Miami, running May 23-25, powerhouse women came together to talk about the positive changes that have been made for women in the industry, as well as the challenges that lie ahead.
Libby Edelman, co-founder of Sam Edelman, Leslie Gallin, who heads footwear at UBM Fashion Group, Liz Rodbell, president of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, and Eileen Tetreault, who directs fashion strategy at Zappos, all shared their thoughts on a range of issues women face in the workplace.
Rodbell pointed out that at Lord & Taylor, 65 percent of employees in vice president roles and above are women. Still, she says, there’s a lot of work to do, and one way to help women achieve success in the workplace is through mentorship.
“Many of my mentors have been men, actually. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man, a woman or my dad — it’s that you have someone in your corner to advise you and help drive change in your life,” Rodbell said. “I think there are differences in advising women to make sure that they reach for the stars and be as bold as they can be.”
Gallin says there’s strength in numbers and that “we need to stick together and nurture, advise and mentor.”
Like most women, the Women in Power panelists all faced challenges on their rise to top roles, but they all found ways to overcome the obstacles and succeed — and they’re paying it forward.
“If you’re out there doing a good job, it’s not gender-specific,” said Gallin. “People recognize talent and will help push you along and invest the time in you. So if there’s any kind of advice, it’s to be aspirational, dedicated and enthusiastic.”
As for encouraging companies to add more women to top roles or board positions, Tetreault says its all about communication.
“Don’t assume people know what you want. I always coach women in the company. If I see women sitting back, I tell them, ‘You should be at the table just like the men are.’ I try to mentor them as people have mentored me. I think it’s just ongoing and people helping and supporting each other in how to get what you want in your vision.”
Edelman echoed that sentiment: “If you want to become a CEO, you have to work toward it, and you have to let people know you want it, and obviously you have to prove it.”