Under Armour has made it clear that it’s focusing on female athletes: The brand delivered a Misty Copeland signature line last month and is forging ahead with its “Unlike Any” campaign, which showcases its eclectic group of ambassadors. Inside the company, there are also a number of female all-stars calling the shots.
Two of them — chief human resources officer Kerry Chandler and Adrienne Lofton, SVP of global brand management — talked to FN about #MeToo, stereotypes female leaders face and how to lead a company when times get tough.
Leading Differently in the #MeToo Era
AL: “I’m not leading differently. The way I lead is through the lens of pure authenticity and often courage, depending on the conversation. That’s something I’ve always tried to push my team and my peers to do as well.”
KC: “I’m not sure I am leading differently. My leadership style is open, authentic and encouraging of women — and all of our teammates — to use their voice. I’m constantly talking to people about finding your voice, utilizing your voice and not giving away your power.”
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Rallying the Troops During Challenging Times
AL: “Don’t be afraid to be honest and show your own raw emotions. If I have a hard time that affects me emotionally, I’m never afraid to show it. As a leader, I have to be human and relatable — and the best way to be that is to be your own true self in any moment. The worst thing to have in that moment is a leader who is sterile and robotic.”
KC: “This question makes me think of 2017, a challenging business year for Under Armour. For me, it’s all about: How do I keep the teammates engaged and energized? One of the best ways to do that is to keep focusing on the business and what we need to improve. Communicating frequently is important: I’m a big believer in saying something is always better than saying nothing.”
The Industry’s Responsibility to Encourage Workplace Diversity
AL: “The first thing is realizing there’s diverse talent all around us. We need to build a strong pipeline to leadership. The second thing is walk the walk. My team is highly diverse from a gender and an ethnicity perspective.”
KC: “Every time we talk about diversity, we have to talk about its link to our business, and we have to let people know diversity is an incredibly important business lever. At Under Armour, diversity drives innovation in everything we do, how we think and how we process things. You’ve got to have people sitting around the table with different backgrounds, that came from different places, that think differently and that feel comfortable enough to offer a unique perspective.”
On Why the Athletic Industry Is Lagging Behind in Cultivating Women
AL: “When you look at any industry, whether it’s sport or tech, there’s a lot of historical baggage. Sports have always been a male-dominated industry, so it’s not a surprise that we’re still looking at very male-dominated leadership and employee base. Part of it is, it’s just easier to hire people that look like you. It’s not a surprise that the industry looks the way it does, but it’s up to us to have the courage to step up and change it.”
KC: “I’ve worked in big corporations outside of sports performance or athletic, and businesses are faced with some of the same challenges. But when you link it directly to sports, it’s been a male-dominated business, and with that, it has attracted more male [employees]. Without being able to make that women’s business link, [cultivating female leaders] hasn’t been something that many companies have focused on. They haven’t been able to see how innovative they can become if they had a more diverse set of employees.”
Fill In the Blank: More Women Should …
AL: “Have the confidence to stand up for themselves. There are always perceptions you’ll find yourself surrounded by, like when a man and a woman are in a room fighting for what they believe in, oftentimes the man is seen as being a go-getter and the woman is seen as aggressive. That typecasting takes courage to call out.”
KC: “More women should not negotiate with themselves in their own heads. Sometimes we negotiate it with ourselves before we open our mouth. Before we know it, the meeting is over and it was a missed opportunity.”
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