Rachel Zoe On Women In The Workplace

Owen Kolasinski

Our EIC has worked with women in every capacity since the beginning of her career and is now CEO of her own company with a workforce made up almost entirely of women. We sat down with her to pick her brain on women in the workplace, why feminine characteristics make women equally valid (if not superior) employees and what she has learned along the way.

Women In The Workforce

Women are the foremost consumers of fashion commerce and media, yet they hold only a small percentage of executive and top level positions in the industry. More often then not, the female view is not reflected in the larger business decisions of many fashion companies—as a female CEO of a multi-faceted fashion and lifestyle brand, this conversation is one I feel compelled to be a part of. Taking the current political climate into account, there seems to be no better time to shed light on the female voice in leadership.

As women, we are pushed to think outside of the box. We are compelled to come up with creative and alternate methods for managing the work/life balance. We are taught that in order to succeed in business we should be stoic and compartmentalize the softness and compassion we display as mothers with the more blunt realities of the workforce. I believe now more than ever, women do not need to follow a one-size-fits-all approach. We are seeing more women today seize this balance by making it their own and not apologizing for doing it in their own way! Starting a family and a career, being a mother and an entrepreneur, building a business and a home—the opportunity is prevalent more than ever and I don’t think women should be apologetic for wanting it all. We need to use our collective strength to support each other, lead in the way that feels right and continue to rise into integral leadership positions in business by leveraging what we feel are the proper tools for success.

Fostering Female Talent

My office skews primarily female. Roughly 90% of my team are women and hold varied responsibilities—from creative interns and account coordinators to directors and C-suite executives. As a CEO and businesswoman, my goal is to develop my team into strong leaders, fearless and independent thinkers who take pride in their work and own their respective role in shaping the business. As I look back to when I was starting out in the industry nearly two decades ago, I only wish someone could have done that for me.

"I’ll never underplay the fact that I’m a woman"

In my role as a CEO, I’ll never underplay the fact that I’m a woman. On the contrary, being a woman is a strength. I curate products for women, design clothing and accessories for women and develop content for women —the success of my brand is predicated on understanding women and tapping into their dreams, hopes and desires. Therefore, emotional intelligence is an important quality of a successful leader and one that I believe women hold a natural likeness to. In fact, many businesses have recently begun measuring emotional intelligence in the hiring and promotion process.

Why She Opened A Nursery In The Office

One of my foremost strengths as a leader is being able to identify and read people—my employees, clients, and the women I design for each season. Understanding what makes them tick and what drives them have been integral in shaping my role as a stylist, editor, and designer. Now as a CEO and mother, I’ve learned more than ever that being in tune with my instincts is critical to being an effective leader. Not only has this allowed for a more open flow of communication with my team, it has also increased the overall productivity in the office by removing any unnecessary conflicts that could otherwise distract the focus of the business. A few years ago, I opened a nursery in my office. I felt the impact of being away from my own children during work hours and felt that I needed to support the mothers (and father’s) on my team in this way. Having a nursery in the office put parents at ease—it allowed for those employees to focus on their daily tasks in the office and gave them time to unwind with their children during lunch and breaks.

The Zoe Media Group Nursery in Los Angeles

Emotion And Instinct In The Workplace

Bringing emotions into play as a leader should never be viewed as a weakness or a disadvantage—emotion is essentially the driving force of passion and being fierce in the pursuit of your intentions is everything that a leader stands for. Do not ignore any gut feelings, as they are usually telling you something meaningful. Developing a “sixth sense” in business is key to accomplishing both the granular and high-level tasks at hand and shows your humanistic side and your ability to build long-lasting relationships, which is a sure way to becoming a key player in your company.

Emotional intelligence can manifest in many different ways that can actually help you propel to the top at your job. Being assertive and holding your ground in business is about knowing (and feeling out) what you’re up against. When you can read into any given situation, it only makes you better at sizing up to what’s ahead and acting appropriately. I’ve always been cognizant to encourage the women on my team not to be afraid to ask for a promotion or to have a voice in key decision-making conversations. Whether your boss thinks you’re ready for that raise or promotion, you should have no shame in asking for what you deserve. Feeling out your manager or supervisor first will help navigate when it’s the right time to ask and most important how to sell them on it. And the worst thing that could happen is that they will say no. If you want to push yourself to grow, you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone and be willing to take risks.

Rachel and Rodger in New York videochatting with their children at home in Los Angeles.

Learning when to ask for help by having a support system to get you through the harder times is key. When I was having my first son Skyler, hiring a female Vice President to support the business was crucial for my husband and business partner, Rodger and me. Rodger and I are a team—I don’t make any big decisions without him. In that same way, we try to insert the same feeling of support and camaraderie into our corporate culture as well. As someone who wears many hats, time management is incredibly crucial, too. My biggest challenge is recognizing that as a leader, I am a role model both for my kids and for my employees, and it takes a lot of courage to assume the responsibility of both. The most important thing for me is that I can wake up every day and feel purpose.

"Women belong in the boardroom just as much as anyone else"

Being a leader and rising up in your career is about identifying key opportunities that are right for you and going after them, head on. It took becoming a mom to realize that there is no formula for finding the perfect balance, but it is achievable and if you want it, you can have it in the way that feels right to you. Being a career obsessed, fearless, unstoppable leader does not make you less feminine. As a woman, knowing how to run a business is not overreaching. Women belong in the boardroom just as much as anyone else. Take female visionaries like Natalie Massenet, Stella McCartney, DVF, Victoria Beckham, and Jen Meyer for example—all of them are exceptional hands-on mothers just as much as they are business women and don’t seem to sacrifice either. You have to believe in yourself and claim the pivotal moments in your career that you deserve. It’s ok to have a direct vision for your career—and whether you have plans to start a family or not, you should never apologize for it because you can have it all.