What have been some of the challenges you have experienced as a female leader during your career? How have things evolved since then?
I’m very fortunate to have worked in retail my entire career, which is a female dominated industry. The retail consumer is largely female, as women tend to own consumer purchasing decisions for their families. Most of the companies I have worked for have had a seventy percent or higher female employee population and, as a result, I’ve worked with, learned from and been led by many types of female role models which has been an amazing gift. That being said, none of the companies I worked for had female CEOs or boards that represented the demographics of the customer or employee base, so I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to get my message across to stakeholders and understanding the currency, language and content required to get ideas across the line.
If you had three pieces of advice that you could offer your younger self, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self to actively keep networking. I believe one of the keys to success is to dedicate time each week cultivating relationships in both your inner and broader networks, and to consider it part of your ongoing development as a professional.
I would tell my younger self to be bolder and just go for it. To find my voice and practice using it.
I would also tell my younger self not to worry and overthink so much. I try to share this advice and normalize it with the next generation (including my daughters) while also acknowledging that there continues to be so much judgement around women in society—how we look, how we dress, how we behave—instead of focusing on who we are, how we think and what we’ve accomplished. My hope is that women can continue to resist being labeled or defined by singular characteristics and stand proudly in the fact that we are multi-dimensional, dynamic forces of nature.
What’s something about the experience of being a female leader that people don’t talk about, that you wish they did?
People don’t spend enough time talking about how incredibly hard it is to balance being a mum and leader. The expectations for parenthood today, along with very low parental support in the workplace, have created the myth that you can have it all. In my experience, you can’t have it all at once. You have to figure out how to integrate your home life and work life—and where to lean in based on what needs your attention at any given time—to be better and happier on all fronts. As a single mom, it took a lot of effort and support to figure out this formula, and I’m passionate about paying it forward to the next generation of female leaders.
Who are some of your female business heroes and why?
Most of the women I admire embody similar qualities—they’ve had to overcome obstacles, demonstrate grit, or have set a new bar in an industry that has historically been harsh on them. I like to deeply study the characteristics of who they are and how they have overcome those hurdles.
A great example is our most recent Quay collaborator, Ashley Graham. She has redefined an industry that historically didn’t celebrate body positivity by advocating for inclusivity and representation in fashion, and inspiring women around the world to feel confident in themselves. Serena Williams is another strong woman I admire. She revolutionized the sport of tennis with her powerful style of play and fierce tenacity, embracing her desire for greatness in the face of negative commentary on her body or her outfits. I also think Esther Wojcicki is extremely interesting and an example of someone who has raised remarkable women. She is a teacher and mother of two successful female tech CEOs in Silicon Valley—Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube and Anne Wojcicki, CEO of 23andMe. Her guiding principles for raising successful leaders is TRICK, which stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration and kindness. These are useful principles to study as both a mother and a female leader.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from another female in business?
I believe that one of the superpowers of being a woman and female leader is our emotional intelligence. Using and applying our empathy towards solving problems is something we should own and be proud of. One piece of advice I was given as I was honing my leadership style was to focus on asking a ton of questions and to create an environment where people feel inspired and unleashed to do great work, as opposed to just telling people what to do.
The second great piece of advice I’ve been given is to trust yourself—you’ve got this.