In honor of Black History Month 2019, FN is celebrating African-American movers and shakers in footwear and fashion by recognizing their accomplishments and inviting them to share insight into how the industry can make bigger diversity strides.
Robin McCoy had never picked up a golf club before landing an internship in sales at Golf Digest magazine. The Elon University senior had been selected through a winning essay sponsored by the minority program of The World Golf Federation designed to encourage the demographic to get involved in the golf industry.
It wasn’t long before McCoy left the greens for a job in marketing at an intimate apparel company, paving the way for her transition to footwear, where she today serves as U.S. marketing manger for fashion-comfort brand FitFlop. “After five years at the [apparel] company, I found the [category] too niche,” said McCoy, who wanted to spread her fashion wings.
According to McCoy, 36, the management team at FitFlop was open to letting her move into shoes. “I loved the product and believed in what it could do for men and women.” she said. “And like me, Fitflop’s founder, Marcia Kilgore, is a female entrepreneur who [provided me] with inspiration.” In fact, McCoy could not have found a better role model, taking a cue from Kilgore, the founder of Bliss Spa, who nows also runs Soap & Glory, a beauty care company.
While McCoy acknowledged she hasn’t felt she’s dealt with many career barriers as a woman or minority, she has advice for African-Americans who want to break into the industry. “Be authentic, hone your craft and don’t sell yourself short,” she said, adding that Fitflop recently added several African-Americans to its digital team. “I’ve made an extreme effort to make them feel welcome.”
Here, McCoy shares her passion for the shoe business and the challenges African-Americans often face in landing top-level management positions.
What made you want to pursue a career in the shoe industry?
“I entered the footwear industry by chance. Previously, I was working in the intimate apparel industry and found it to be too niche. I then decided to pursue other areas of fashion, and I happened to see a job posting on LinkedIn for FitFlop. I was very excited and blessed for the opportunity to change industries.”
Looking back on your career to this point, what accomplishment are you most proud of?
“There’s no one thing in particular, but I’m proud to have allowed my passion to lead the way when scouting job opportunities. For me, passion is just as important as title, salary, etc. As a marketer, I must be passionate about the product first and foremost to authentically drive its success.”
What do you consider the biggest challenge African-Americans face in the shoe industry?
“The biggest challenge African-Americans face in the fashion industry is being promoted to upper-management roles. However, the onus is not on African-Americans but on brands and their executives to actively recruit and promote minorities to senior-level positions within their organization.”
What specific steps should footwear firms take to make their teams more diverse?
“‘Diversity’ is more than a buzzword to use in meetings. Top level executives should openly acknowledge the lack of diversity and implement a plan of action that involves actively recruiting, retaining and promoting minorities in their organization. For example, companies can start internal one-on-one mentoring programs that pair minorities with senior-level executives who can provide career advice and long-term guidance as minorities advance in their careers.”
Have there been any barriers to your success?
“While I have not faced discrimination in my career, that doesn’t mean others haven’t.”
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