WWD’s sister publication FN and Two Ten Foundation celebrated a group of game-changing women at the “Women Who Rock” event, held at The Plaza Hotel in New York City on Aug. 3 with sponsors including Birdies, New Balance and Wolverine Worldwide. The panel was moderated by FN executive editor Katie Abel, and featured Olympian-turned-entrepreneur Allyson Felix, Birdies’ chief executive officer and cofounder Bianca Gates and Loeffler Randall chief creative officer and founder Jessie Randall. The changemakers spoke about their individual journeys, leading in a dramatically changed world, advocating for women’s rights and creating a lasting legacy. All three are passionate about supporting other females and have launched businesses that help empower and put women ahead.
Below, some takeaways from their conversation.
Forging Ahead With New Ventures:
Allyson Felix: “I started Saysh because I didn’t see the company that I believed needed to exist in the world. I am so passionate about the shoes that we create specifically for women. But even more than that, it’s about this company that supports and sees women in a holistic way. I am just excited to be a part of that and to be making something that is for and by women.”
Jessie Randall: “We signed our first retail lease in January 2020. We started Loeffler Randall in 2004 and it was 18 years of wanting to have our own store and we finally did it, and everything shut down. Although it was kind of terrifying having that retail lease, it was something sort of hopeful that my team could really focus on. Having that really wonderful, happy thing to focus on really brought my team together. It was a really nice time where I feel like we all were sort of having that reality check and being grateful for our jobs and each other and learning to work in new ways. We learned to get creative in new ways.”
Advocating For Women’s Rights:
A.F.: “I had been a professional athlete for a very long time. I had been with Nike for almost over a decade when I decided to start a family and I wasn’t fully supported through that. I was really scared to speak about the experience and what was happening, not only to myself, but to the teammates and colleagues of mine. I felt like I was in a position to be able to share my own truth and try to fight for those maternal protections. It was so outside of my comfort zone to speak up on this issue. But I just had a baby, a daughter at the time and I looked at her and I was like there’s no way that I am letting my daughter and her generation deal with this. No matter what the consequences are it’s that important that I need to speak out. Now women who start families they have 18 months of maternal protection.”
Bianca Gates: “Our mission is to lift up women — that is our guiding light, so we have to speak up. So when the overturn of Roe v. Wade announcement came I was disgusted. I didn’t have time to consult my team on what I was going to write. What you see on our Instagram now is what I wrote personally. I didn’t even think twice when it came to abortion rights, because it’s not political — it’s a human right. I almost think that we’ve now, we have trained our customers to know what we believe and stand for. So now it’s not a shock to the system anymore. So we need to keep doing that.”
J.R.: “I feel like I always speak out about what I believe in. It was a no-brainer for me. It wasn’t even a question to speak out. I was absolutely disgusted by the ruling [overturning Roe v. Wade]. But with that being said, I don’t think I was surprised by it. I’ve been completely disgusted with the direction the country has been going in for a long time, not just about women’s rights but LGBTQ rights. There have been so many people affected by policies that are aimed to take away rights and basically even dignity and I get very passionate about that. I was raised in a generation where we were told that anything we wanted to do, we could do and I always believed that.”
On Empowering Women Through Business:
A.F.: “We launched our maternity return policy at Saysh, which is basically if you have a pair of our shoes and you become pregnant and your size changes and when your foot changes during pregnancy it’s typically a permanent change, so we’ll give you a new size of shoes and it’s been received really well. I think it’s just a small way where we can support and show up. I think just being thoughtful about some of these things and saying that we’re going to do things a little differently has been a great way for us to show up.”
B.G.: “We announced that we are a four-year sponsor of Angel City Los Angeles’ women’s soccer team in December 2020. Our logo is prominently displayed on their jerseys and sleeves for the next four years. It’s truly unbelievable and I hope more brands step up and do unique things like this and I think we can do more of that.”
Equality and Equity:
A.F.: “Working with Athleta has been amazing. We’ve really been able to do some important work to push for more equality. We were able to bring accessible free childcare to our national champions for women, for men, for the officials that were there, for everybody taking place. I believe that should be standard across the board in our sports and all sports. Finding partners who are like-minded like that who want to change things and show up for women is really important.”
B.G.: “When I sit with my girlfriends and I ask how much money do you make? What does your job pay? Women will not share. It’s a real problem. Talking about money amongst women is totally taboo and we need to break that. I think we need to share more and help each other and lift each other up, ask for money and it starts by having a conversation and we need to break that taboo immediately.”