With no end to COVID-19 in sight, Adidas veteran LaNiece Douglas landed a new role with the brand in September. And like others who changed roles amid the pandemic, she was forced to adapt in less than ideal circumstances.
Douglas, who joined Adidas more than two years ago after stops at Saks Fifth Avenue and Gilt.com, assumed the company’s VP of retail role in September. Prior to the change, she held the senior director of digital merchandising and planning position for roughly two years.
Despite the economic uncertainty and widespread employment concerns, Douglas is one of many women who climbed the leadership ladder during the pandemic. According to a recent report from merchandising software company Nextail, 2020 saw more than 100 CEO turnovers in fashion and retail, and in 40.2% of those cases, a woman stepped into the top role. While still not quite on par with their male counterparts, that share is up from 31.8% in 2019.
Here, Douglas opens up about her first days and months in her new role at Adidas and talks about how she’s supporting women at all levels.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?
“You must carve out time for what’s important to you. For me, it was ending every Friday at 4 p.m. so I could attend my family Zoom call.”
What is the one habit/professional practice from pre-pandemic world that you will never return to?
“Meeting fatigue. Being efficient with my time and respectful of others’ calendars is key.”
What is the one question you always ask in an interview?
“‘What is the last piece of critical feedback you received and how did you use it?’ I like to see if people will discuss their areas of opportunity because we all have them.”
A recent Linked In post about using “peppy phrases” like Girl Boss and pronouns like “female” founder recently stirred up much conversation. Should we be using women or female to identify executives in 2021. Why or why not?
“It depends on the context. Representation matters and I think it’s important for people to see women in leadership positions. However, I don’t think it should be a qualifier to introduce what I/we as women do.”
How you’ve navigated your role during an unprecedented time, both professionally and personally?
“Professionally has been about putting people first, celebrating the wins and focusing on things that are in our control. Our retail team has also used the time to try new creative solutions and break the traditional rules a bit. Personally, I have focused on creating boundaries and knowing when I need to step away and take time for myself. I’m most proud of my teammates in the retail organization, including our store associates and corporate employees. Everyone has truly stepped up and shown genuine care for one another, creating space for each other to bring our whole selves to work. It’s been great to see how we’ve grown together as a retail organization.”
How you’re supporting women at your company through formal policies and in more personal ways?
“Through mentoring circles, coffee chats and informal one-on-one time, it’s been important to share experiences and stories on how to navigate work, life and everything in between. When I stepped into this role, so many amazing women across the organization reached out. It was incredibly touching, inspiring, and it was a great reminder of how invaluable that support is.”
How the industry can help more women succeed and ascend to key decision-making roles, especially during a time when so many women at all levels have been forced to leave the workforce?
“We need to create space and opportunities for women to share their perspectives, lead projects and teams, and present the big ideas. All ships need to rise so creating space and opportunity is key.”