6 Female Footwear Forces on Overcoming Challenges, Leading During #MeToo

The Two Ten Footwear Foundation is honoring six female power players this week at the second annual Women in Footwear Industry Impact Awards in Las Vegas during FN Platform. The event, set for Tuesday, is sponsored by Skechers and recognizes distinguished women who are making a difference.

Here is a look at this year’s winners:

Amelia Newton Varela, president, Steve Madden, WIFI Leadership Award

On the importance of supporting female colleagues: “Women are the ultimate multitaskers. Many have so many different roles to manage — mother, daughter, wife, employee, boss. It’s a lot to handle for any one person. Together we need to be more supportive and compassionate in understanding the daily challenges we all face.”

What I would have done differently:
“Throughout my career, I never took the time to acknowledge my accomplishments. Looking back, I wish I could have given myself a break or a pat on the back rather than always being so hard on myself.”

Amelia Newton Varela
CREDIT: Courtesy

Biggest challenge I’ve faced recently: “As my son gets older and school requires more of my involvement, I am trying to find the balance of being a mother and managing a big business. It’s been very challenging and stressful to figure out how to be present for everyone who needs my attention. It’s a work in progress, but I am figuring it out by getting support and advice from other moms who are in the same boat I am in.”


Gabriella Weiser, VP of marketing, Steve Madden, WIFI Leadership Award

Biggest breakthrough: “When I started at Steve Madden, I was fortunate to be given a lot of responsibility at a fairly young age. I loved the challenge, but I didn’t have all the tools that come with years of experience. One of my biggest breakthroughs came at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed. I was working and traveling 24/7, and one day I woke up and realized that I couldn’t do it all. But for the first time in my life, I didn’t equate this to failure or weakness. I had to embrace reality and come up with a game plan. It was then that I began to understand the difference between achiever and leader — and how you are only as good as your team and the people who surround you.”

Gabriella Weiser

Supporting other women: “Many women I know have high expectations of themselves — we tend to be perfectionists and set a high bar for success, which often makes it difficult for us to ask for help. I’ve been fortunate to work with an incredible team of women, and what I do know is that together, we are stronger.”


Karla Frieders, chief merchandising officer, Steve Madden, WIFI Leadership Award

Biggest breakthrough: “I spent the majority of my career in the retail division of Steve Madden. When I became CMO, it felt as if I was starting from scratch. It was a scary move because I felt my expertise was as a retailer, but it became a very exciting and rewarding experience. Not only did it rejuvenate my love for the business, it also taught me so much. The best part was realizing my retail experience strengthened my skills in the new role.”

Karla Frieders

Advice to my younger self: “Always use your voice and share your thoughts. It is one thing to sit on the sidelines and learn, but speaking up will bring you to a higher level of education. Ask questions and don’t stop asking. Be aware of your value but keep a kind heart. Take time for yourself, and lastly, don’t let fear slow you down.”


Wendy Yang, president of Hoka, Teva and Sanuk, WIFI Advancement Award

Biggest breakthrough moment: “Joining Reebok back in 1992 — right after my three-year career on the professional women’s tennis circuit and after obtaining my MBA at Kellogg business school, which was the perfect opportunity and timing for me to combine my experience and passion. I became the associate product manager for tennis. At the time, Reebok was vying with Nike for the No. 1 position in athletic footwear, and it was a great high-energy, high-powered culture with lots of opportunity. I’ve been fortunate to have had other strong career experiences.”

Wendy Yang

Supporting other women in this moment: “There’s no time like the present for women to support other women — especially in the workforce. Throughout my career, I have tried to empower women I have worked with to have confidence in their voice and to help them acknowledge their importance — not only in the workplace but in the world. Each woman has the opportunity to advocate for those around them. But this is much bigger than just women helping women. It’s time for leaders at the top, men and women, to recognize, reward and promote the best talent, not just the best male talent.”


Alison Prince, VP and DMM of full-price women’s active and kid’s shoes at Nordstrom, WIFI Community Award

What women can do to support one another in the era of #MeToo: “If you see something, say something. We all own making our working environment a safe and respectful place, regardless of gender. More senior members of our community must lead on this, because they propagate a sense of how to behave to the whole group. Additionally, if you are more established in your career, you have an opportunity to support those who are newer and may feel more at risk of negative consequences for saying something.”

Alison Prince

Best advice I’ve ever received: “Eleven years ago, my GMM told me that I needed to do a better job of considering the perspectives of other people. To put this into action, I ask a lot of questions of myself and others before I act. How will my team or a business partner react? What’s their perspective? What’s in it for them?”


Jodie Fox, co-founder and chief creative officer, Shoes of Prey, WIFI Influencer Award

Best advice I’ve ever received: “One of my mentors, Elizabeth Broderick, was the Australian sex discrimination commissioner for a number of years. She said, ‘You are entitled to be at the table. You are entitled to ask any question. You are entitled to say I need XYZ, and you don’t need a reason beyond that. Your opinion is as important as everyone else at the table.’ When I look at the women on my team, we are vastly female, I often talk about that.”

On the Time’s Up/#MeToo movement: “I’m glad it is happening. There’s a dialogue. This movement is bringing up awareness, and that’s a really important first part of the discussion, and I’m hoping it evolves into education. I’m optimistic.”

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