Foot Locker Inc. chief executive officer Mary Dillon and Wella Company CEO Annie Young-Scrivner kicked off the day’s panels talking about key strategies for success as leaders, with both executives highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusivity at every level of a company’s organizational structure. “Our leadership team was not diverse at all when I got there,” Dillon said. “In the year, I’ve tripled the diversity of the leadership team and we’re now 60 percent diverse. It’s not that hard — if you’re a great leader, you attract great people. Diversity is all around us, just make it a priority.”
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Gina Boswell, CEO of Bath & Body Works, stressed the importance of taking risks when rising up the career ladder. “If you want to rise — taking smart risks, not crazy risks — is important. The more you ascend I find the realization is that the biggest risk of all is not taking risks. That was something I wish I had known before.”
Nell Diamond, founder and CEO of Hill House Home, discussed fundraising. “We’ve now raised three rounds of venture funding. The first round was the fourth year of the business. And then there were two rounds right after that. The first round was by far the hardest. And I would also say that, as an entrepreneur, I always felt that this was just like a thing that people say, but the first million dollars in revenue was significantly harder than the next $40 million.”
In a conversation with Brianna Rizzo, talent partner at VMG Partners, on how to get onto a board of directors, Mandy Fields, chief financial officer of E.l.f. Beauty, said to focus on your career early on and then if you want to join a board decide if you’ll be a multidisciplined person or an expert. Christiane Pendarvis, Savage x Fenty copresident and His & Hers board member, said to say “yes” to a lot of things. “You have to let a lot of people know you’re interested. You have to be out there, loud and proud, if you want to be on a board.”
TikTok influencer Alix Earle told the audience that the social media space is saturated and there’s a lot of the same content, so it sticks out to her when people share their personality. Her advice to brands wanting to attract Gen Z is to speak their language. “It’s important for brands to understand the younger generation and the kind of trends that they’re following,” she said. “I like when brands [speak our language], it’s kind of following along with the trends that we like to see on a day-to-day basis.”
“I’ve never looked at [womanhood] as a setback,” said Felicia Hatcher, CEO of Black Ambition, Pharrell Williams’ nonprofit organization. “Historically we’ve just been knocked down and punched in the gut in every way possible, but that is a testament to our resilience and we always get back up, show up and show out.”
Scarlett Johansson, actress and chair and founder of skin care brand The Outset, said her superpower is trusting her gut. “I have pretty good gut instincts and I go with them.” Kate Foster, CEO and cofounder of The Outset, added, “I learned to trust my gut more through this partnership with Scarlett.”
Stephanie Linnartz, CEO of Under Armour, talked about making the jump from Marriott International to the sports brand: “Life is short — health as well. And I’ve always wanted to lead a company. And I said, ‘You know what, in this next chapter coming out of this, I’m going to do something different. I’ve taken a lot of risks within the hospitality space, I’m just going to go for it. I’m going to bet on myself.’ This opportunity came about, so I went for it. I always ask myself this question: ‘Do you like winning more than you fear losing?’ So I thought, let’s go for it.”
Kellie Fitzgerald, managing director of retail at Google, shared her recent realizations for finding new models of success. In her role leading Google’s employee resource group, Women in Google, Fitzgerald said she has argued for women to stop the endless pursuit of balance and become more intentional about the use of time and energy — whether that is taking a trip to Italy or utilizing technology (like AI) and data to do some heavy lifting.
Together, Natelle Baddeley, senior vice president of design, product development and merchandise strategy of Caleres; Angelique Joseph, senior vice president of design and product development at Caleres, and Jenny Olsen, chief marketing officer of Caleres, discussed Naturalizer and its almost 100 years as a purpose-driven brand. Innovation has been a key component in the design of the brand, where Baddeley said she often shares her own experiences and the experiences of others in the process with the goal being to design for every woman. Shoes are the foundation that move women through life, the Caleres team said, so it is vitally important to create footwear that understands the behaviors, wants and needs of women.