Barneys CEO Daniella Vitale on Overcoming Resistance in the Workplace

Every day in June, FN is showcasing female leaders across the industry for our Women in Power series.

Barneys New York CEO and president Daniella Vitale knows her worth. Here, she opened up to FN about the best decision she’s ever made and how she plans to mentor and continue to champion the next generation of female leaders.

On the most significant barrier to female leadership in fashion and footwear: 
“Most chairman, boards and top CEO jobs are still held by men in our industry and while we are progressing, there is just not enough mentorship, leadership training and desire to change that. Boards and heads of companies need to make an effort to diversify the leadership and governing bodies.”

On the biggest challenge for the next generation of women:
“There will be fewer challenges than those before them, but one of the biggest challenges I see is not enough focus on their leadership skills, management of people and peer-to-peer support. I see a lot of talent coming up the ranks. I want [them] to understand that managing [a team] in an effective, constructive and motivating way often supersedes talent. That is going to be a huge part of any leadership position.”

On how she’s supporting the next generation:
“By creating leadership programs, mentorships and performance recognition tactics, as well as a proper leadership roadmap within the company. This is key. You need to give people the structure to support their career development.”

On overcoming resistance when working with men:
“I overcame it by meeting the resistance with performance, confidence and an unwillingness to accept that I should be treated or paid any other way than my male peers or counterparts.”

On a powerful leadership moment:
“We had a complicated year [at Barneys], but I watched my executive team continue to lead, motivate, maintain a positive outlook and never once lose momentum from achieving our objectives. It is sometimes easier to accept defeat, but they were extraordinary. We are a stronger team and company because of it.”

Advice for women negotiating a salary increase or a promotion at work:
“Never be afraid to ask because the worst thing that happens is that the answer is no. What I never accept is people coming in and asking for more money based on someone else’s salary. You have to substantiate why you should receive a raise and how your individual performance warrants it. If you have that, keep asking.”

On the impact of the #MeToo movement:
“It made us much more mindful of what gender equality really looks like and how it is more than just pay and performance. It is also being mindful of subtle differences in the way we behave. As an example, I was told to stop hugging people in the company. I haven’t stopped entirely, but I certainly should not be allowed to do things just because I am a woman. If I were a male CEO, it may have been an issue. #MeToo also made me realize that I am surrounded by wonderful men in the organization and am proud of our diversity.”

On the best decision she’s ever made:
“When I stopped feeling guilty about my success and stopped worrying that my home life would be negatively impacted. My children are 16 and thriving.”

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