Every day in June, FN is featuring female power players from across the shoe industry.
As Stitch Fix continues to expand rapidly, footwear is a major part of the company’s strategy. Jenn Kramer, women’s buying director for footwear and accessories, talks about being supported as a working mom, taking risks and the importance of staying confident.
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
“The challenges for women today are similar to those of the past — how to live up to societal expectations that a working woman can ‘have it all’ between career, family and personal life. I’m trying to lead by example, by showing that it isn’t about having it all, but accepting when certain things aren’t perfect. I try to be open and transparent with my team about the challenges of new motherhood, rather than pretending that finding balance is easy.”
Have you encountered resistance when working under — or leading — men? How did you overcome that?
“Having started my career in the even more male-dominated world of a New York investment bank, I’ve learned to be confident and stand up for my ideas. I’ve also been lucky to have worked with many great men in my fashion career. Specifically, I currently report to Mike Smith, Stitch Fix’s COO and president, who has been a terrific leader and mentor because he understands balancing family needs and he is supportive when I’m needed at home. He respects my desire to put my family first and encourages me to do what’s needed to find that balance.”
Tell us about a powerful leadership moment you’ve experienced.
“Our CEO and founder, Katrina Lake, was pregnant with her first son the same time I was, and we gave birth just five months apart. She has been a terrific example of a working mother, and I was inspired to see her holding her son in her arms as she rang the bell at NASDAQ when Stitch Fix went public in 2017. She just had a second son, and I’m pregnant with my second as well. She sets the tone at the top that Stitch Fix is a great place for working mothers.”
What is the best decision you’ve ever made? The worst?
“The best decision I ever made in my career was switching out of an industry that I wasn’t passionate about to pursue my interest in retail. It was incredibly scary at the time because I had no concrete plans and I was leaving a comfortable role. But ultimately I’m so much happier and I look forward to going to work each day. I don’t like to think about any decision as being the worst because no matter how bad it might have seemed at the time, all of my decisions have led me to where I am today and I feel very grateful and lucky.”