The WIFI Impact Awards, held this week at FN Platform in Las Vegas, honored female leaders who are making a difference inside their own companies and beyond.
Terry Solis, president of the sales group at Marc Fisher Footwear, received the leadership award. Kathy Forstadt, director of casual women’s footwear at Zappos took home the community award. And the advancement award went to Aldo, which has worked to empower women throughout the company.
Here, the honorees talk about leadership and mentoring.
Terry Solis, Marc Fisher Footwear, on great leadership:
“My belief is that leadership at work begins with creating the right environment, one that is kind and caring. It needs to be fair, both internally and with our business partners. It needs to be an environment that is fun and has laughter. A leader needs to be a teacher and a mentor, a great listener. Most importantly, they need to lead by example. It takes a lot of hard work.”
Valerie Martin, Aldo, on cultivating female leaders:
“Two or three years ago, we decided to do two global surveys, one from the BCG Group and one from McKinsey. You need to hear what your people think and then build a strategy. We have a young and progressive CEO, David Bensadoun, and he decided to become the ambassador of female leadership. I see a lot of women here, but men have a role to play. David believed in equality of opportunity — when you get promoted, it needs to be for your expertise, your hard work and your potential. I don’t want to be promoted just because of quota, I want to be promoted because I’m good. David started to talk about female leadership at company events and being more transparent on our website. We have a female leadership seminar and leadership group. We also have guest speakers come in because sometimes you need a reality check as a woman. We also introduced flex time, telecommuting, summer Fridays to name a few. We also introduced services — car wash, car maintenance, hair dress, manicurist, subsidized daycare, onsite gym, mindfulness classes, nutritionist, a personal trainer — this is what we have at the office.”
Kathy Forstadt, Zappos.com,on the importance of mentors:
“Jeanne Markel was the first Las Vegas WIFI chair. She was my director at the time and felt I would be a good fit to help champion the initiative. Women who work in the footwear industry can look to WIFI to build relationships, share industry learnings and find support and membership. [Personally], there are a lot of people who have affected me and helped me achieve what I have thus far in my career. Two people I look up to and want to continue to learn from are Jeff Esperson and Mike Normart. Both of them have tremendous experience at both Zappos and others retailers.”