Darcy Penick is a product of her environment.
Back in the ’90s, while weighing potential college options, she knew wanted a place that would support her as she moved through the world. A New York Times article at the time helped her seal the deal.
“It was titled, I believe, ‘How to succeed? Go to Wellesley,’ Penick said during the “Women For Women In the Workplace” discussion at Fairchild Media Group’s Women In Power event this September in New York City. “It was a little bit of a powerful statement to read as I was considering college choices. There was a lot of data that was talking about being in an environment that nurtures female leaders. I think it was the first time I remember having the awareness of that.
“As I continued through my experience there, there were a lot of deliberate conversations around developing and being a leader,” she continued. “Hearing that in college, I think, was very informative to be more intentional and deliberate in the way I thought about representing myself as I came out of school.”
The lessons she learned at Wellesley paid off. Today, Penick is president of Bergdorf Goodman, a position she has held since 2018. Her résumé also includes stints at Shopbop, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf’s parent company Neiman Marcus, working her way up from buyer to chief merchandiser to CEO and president along the way.
Penick credits much of her success to the environments she’s been in. In addition to her time at Wellesley, she is thankful for her parent’s creating a home with “zero-gender bias” as she was growing up, she said.
“I realized today I was really incredibly fortunate to have parents [who] really encouraged me to go out and do things I was passionate about and interested in. And simultaneously encouraged me to lead,” the retail executive explained.
Now, Penick said she wants to pay it forward by creating a work environment that encourages other women to lead.
“More and more I realize I want to work for organizations where I feel ethically aligned with the people in the organization; where I believe we have shared values and approach,” she said. “I’m really proud of some of the things that we’ve been doing within Bergdorf’s and the Neiman Marcus Group, our parent company. We’ve made some vested interests and we’re continuing to change how we build a better culture for female leaders.”
That includes a senior-leadership team that is majority women (eight women and one man).
“This idea of creating cultures that support women happens more often when there are more women within leadership,” Penick said. “But it’s also doing things like changing our maternity policy to offer 24 weeks for women who are having children. But also, paternity leave and leaves for adoption — things that allow us to be much more inclusive and, kind of, have the ability to support life experiences beyond just work.
“The culture that you create, that requires us embodying it,” she continued. “That requires us, not just me at that helm, but the leaders of my team feeling empowered to create cultures that allow for more work-life balance; to create cultures where we talk about deliberate leadership in a way that is meaningful to cultivate a culture that we want to be a part of. It takes deliberate choices in order to create those cultures. You have to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”