How 3 Powerful Women at Nike Are Pushing the Diversity Agenda

A recent wave of executive departures and an aggressive new focus on championing inclusion have made Nike footwear’s most prominent diversity case study.

Here, three of its influential female leaders talk pushing the inclusion agenda and their best advice for climbing the corporate ladder.

Amy Montagne

VP/GM of global categories

Amy Montagne Nike
Amy Montagne
CREDIT: Courtesy

Why diversity is critical right now:

“It’s not only integral to business, but it’s important for flourishing teams. When people from different backgrounds and experiences come together, [they] bring new and innovative thinking to challenges and opportunities.”

A skill that has helped 
me be successful:

“The ability to be curious. My team encompasses people across a vast array of expertise — from our athletes themselves, to innovation, to design, to consumer insights, and product and marketing. Asking questions keeps me learning and gives me the privilege of seeing different perspectives.”

Teachable moments:

“[Becoming] a mother. I had triplet boys eight years ago, and I needed to learn a new way of working and adapting [to] what felt right for me and my family. An openness to change [and] a willingness to evolve to this new situation are parts of traveling on this journey.”

Advice to my younger self:

“Trust yourself. You have good instincts. I spent a lot of time questioning myself and wondering what others thought about me and my work. I wasted energy that could have been channeled to better use if I had trusted what my experience and intuition told me.”

Navigating motherhood and career:

“The thing I assess every day is if
 my children are happy and healthy. Don’t be afraid to get the support system you need to ensure your family and your life — both personally and professionally — are in sync with your own barometer.”

Vanessa Garcia-Brito

Global community impact senior director, communications and partnerships

Vanessa Garcia-Brito Nike
Vanessa Garcia-Brito
CREDIT: Courtesy

Why diversity is critical right now:

“We’re living through one of the most culturally diverse moments. Homogenous thinking doesn’t win in this environment, and if we want to be the most innovative, authentically in tune with our consumers and agile, then we need to take diversity and inclusion seriously. We need representation at the senior-executive level. They have the power to make it a priority, set the direction for an organization, embed it in the culture and create accountability.”

Most valuable tool for success:

“I was fortunate to have some incredible — female and male — role models early 
in my career. I started out as a lawyer
 and one of the first partners trained me 
to eliminate ‘no’ from my thinking and vocabulary. We approached every problem with curiosity and courage, looking for a ‘yes’ in the most impossible circumstances — and finding it.”

Overcoming setbacks:

“People like to put you in a box, and I’ve always had a hard time seeing the box. There’s always some bias to overcome. I come from humble beginnings, and some people assumed I wouldn’t be going to college — but that was always in my plan. When my dad died
of AIDS while I was in graduate school, I was encouraged to step back [from my pursuits]. Instead, I went to law school and channeled my energy through tae kwan do.”

Advice for my younger self:

“Mom is right. If you’re having a terrible day, dance. If you’re having a great day, dance. There’s always a reason to dance.”

Janett Nichol

VP, NXT apparel innovation

Janett Nichol nike
Janett Nichol
CREDIT: Courtesy

Why diversity is critical right now:

“Representation is important at all levels of an organization. You [need] diverse voices at the table that genuinely reflect the consumers you serve. It’s equally important to foster an environment that empowers [those] divergent voices. Upper [management has] a responsibility to be accountable, invest in diversity within their teams, accelerate manager training, be mindful of retention, as well as recruit and promote.”

Most valuable tools for success:

“Family, intuition and hard work.”

Overcoming setbacks:

“Earlier in my career, as I was learning to find my own voice, I suffered from self-doubt and insecurity. When we are young women navigating an industry that has been predominantly male — like sports
 — it’s natural to feel uneasy. I’m grateful to work at a company where I’ve been supported, empowered to make decisions and given the chance to help shape and nurture other young women as they climb.”

Most useful tip you ever received:

“Don’t mistake activity for progress.”

Advice for my younger self:

“This too shall pass. Relax, take it all in, live through it — the good and the bad. Everything seems so much bigger and more important in the moment, and your perspective is lost.”

Navigating motherhood and career:

“If you can, leave early for your children’s game, school play or music recital. Those are the moments you will remember instead of the meeting you would have attended. Being a mom has helped me as a colleague, a mentor [and] leader.”

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