Women in Retail Leadership and their Advice for Women

“So much of success is about the hustle,” Cathay Bi, Product Manager at Google, declared. She and a panel of her peers were sharing their professional wisdom with a roomful of women at the Narvar Studio.

But learning how to hustle and succeed at work isn’t always intuitive. And for women, building a career has its own unique obstacles. Luckily, retail is more progressive than other industries when it comes to mending the gender gap. But there are still a lot of challenges for women — in retail and elsewhere.

That’s why last month Cathay, Rothy’s Head of Merchandising Lesley Clifford, and TheRealReal’s Director of Retention Marketing Sara Brooks, shared insights with Narvar employees and friends. The luncheon, hosted by the Women at Narvar Network, is part of a larger initiative to give underrepresented groups the opportunity to inspire each other through events and workshops.

Here’s what we learned from Cathay, Lesley, and Sara.

Always move forward, even when you doubt yourself.

“When you’re having self-doubt, it’s usually because you’re thinking about whether you’re choosing the right thing to do,” said Cathay. “And sometimes it’s not about the right or wrong thing to do. It’s just about picking and saying, ‘This is my choice. This is what we’re going with. Let’s do it.’”

But even when you intellectually understand the need to move forward, it can be hard to master it emotionally. That’s why Sara advises having a network you can trust. “Everyone feels vulnerable,” said Sara. “You need to have people you can reach out to personally and expose that vulnerability — friends, professionals, family. You won’t be successful all by yourself. None of this happens with just one person.”

Rothy’s Head of Merchandising Lesley Clifford shares insight that amuses Product Manager at Google Cathay Bi during the Women at Narvar Luncheon.

Make sure you have a system for prioritizing.

At any company, there are countless problems to tackle, but no one can do it all. The panelists discussed their strategies for making sure they were being effective. “Having a methodology for prioritizing is so critical because there are a thousand things you can do, but only 10 matter,” said Sara. “And you can probably only do five.” So to narrow it down, she focuses on projects that are high impact and low effort. Then, she comes up with talking points for the high effort, high impact tasks.

As for the rest of it? “Forget about the low impact stuff. You’re never going to get to it at a startup,” said Sara. “But it’s still good to have it on a list, because it will come up. And when your CEO or investor comes to you and says, ‘I have this idea,’ you can say, ‘Yup, I already thought about that, and this is how it fits in.’

Lesley uses the overall company strategy to guide her. “I look at the top three biggest priorities for the year and ask myself how everything ties back to them,” said Lesley. “And if something doesn’t tie back to those priorities, then it probably doesn’t fit in the workflow.”

“You need to have people you can reach out to personally and expose that vulnerability — friends, professionals, family. You won’t be successful all by yourself.”

Go where the waves are.

When asked about the best advice she’d ever received, Cathay recalled a story a manager told her early in her career. “What do you do if you want to be the best surfer in the world? You go where the waves are. It doesn’t matter what function you’re in or what you’re trying to be.” So Cathay chose roles that would get her closest to high-level decision makers and other people she could learn from. “From then on, I could map the rest of my career based on who I worked with,” she explained.

The retail industry is full of strong women we admire. Check out these five badass women in retail to learn about how powerful ladies are influencing the way the world shops. We’re also hosting even more retail leaders at Narvar Summit 2019, February 6–7. Register now to take part in the conversation.

 


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