Female Shoe Executives Share Challenges and Opportunities of Leading in the #MeToo Era

After Me Too ignited a long overdue discussion about workplace culture, top women in footwear are uniting in more ways than ever before.

Some are helping their companies lead gender equality initiatives, while others are emphasizing mentoring and other programs that help female leaders rise through the ranks. But most of the women we interviewed agree: women must do more to help each other.

“At DSW, we’ve been working to build trust and call on our leaders to embrace difficult conversations,” said COO Michele Love. I’m committed to creating safe working environments for our associates, and trying to call out the casual ways we can inadvertently disenfranchise others with language — words alone have the power to make people feel safe, or not.”

Mentoring is another important way women are helping each other drive change, although it isn’t always easy.

“Finding female mentors who work in the fashion space has been challenging because only 14 percent of major brands are run by female executives,” said Sarah Flint, founder of her namesake collection. “Despite this, I’ve found incredible female mentors that have given me indispensable advice and the confidence to build my brand into what it is today.”

These trailblazing women are not content to conduct business as usual, continuing to encourage the next generation of talent in design, marketing, sales and communications. “Women who assert themselves in the workplace can often times be viewed as a threat instead of an asset,” said industry veteran Susan Itkowitz, president of Marc Fisher Footwear. “I’ve learned the value of being unapologetically determined and confident — speak up when you have something to say and don’t settle when you feel something is rightfully deserved.  I assure you that it gets a little easier each time.”

Click through the gallery as women in the shoe industry share their thoughts on their thoughts on how they are leading differently in the #MeToo era; the biggest challenges they face and what more women should do to make their voices heard.

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