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Friday, October 22, 2021

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Gema Deleon interviews U.S. track star Allyson Felix during the keynote discussion of the Women in Entrepreneurship and Leadership event. Gema Deleon interviews U.S. track star Allyson Felix during the keynote discussion of the Women in Entrepreneurship and Leadership event.
 


Women in Entrepreneurship and Leadership Event Celebrates Women

SDSU’s Women in Entrepreneurship and Leadership event gives students and young professionals the opportunity to learn from successful women business leaders.
By Fowler College of Business News Team
 

“Embrace the moment. You don’t know how quickly life can change, so enjoy the journey.”

More than 1,800 students, young professionals and community members were on hand for San Diego State University’s fourth annual Women in Entrepreneurship and Leadership event for an opportunity to learn from business leaders, entrepreneurs and industry experts about starting and succeeding in their careers. 

Nine-time Olympic medalist Allyson Felix was keynote speaker for the Feb. 27 event, sponsored by the Osinski family and hosted by SDSU’s Fowler College of Business. 

Sharing views

SDSU President Adela de la Torre introduced the opening Emerging Leaders panel. Victoria Ashton (VP People, GoSite), Eriko Bailey (VP Supply Chain, Pura Vida Bracelets), Heather Doyle (Zone Business Manager, Frito-Lay), and Angelia Trinidad (founder and CEO, Passion Planner) spoke to their experiences adjusting to their business world. 

Said Ashton: “You will fail and guess what? So will everyone else around you. Others can learn from your mistakes and you can learn from others’ mistakes, and we can all be better.” 

The panelists agreed that some of the best advice for students who are about to embark on a business career is to exude and seek out positivity. “Surround yourself with people who help you to love yourself,” said Trinidad. 

The audience for the afternoon Executive Leaders panel session heard from Lisa Graham (Sr. Director, Global Leadership, Adobe Systems), Susan McLain (SVP for Global Product Management, Disney), Ronda Sedillo (SVP, Chief Financial Officer, San Diego Padres), and Erin Taylor (Strategy Director, Foodservice, PepsiCo). Each discussed their first jobs and how those jobs created a significant imprint on their later careers.  

“Your first job is so important,” said Graham. “You develop your network, you meet people who will sponsor you, you learn what you like and what you don’t like. And when you’re good at something, they ask you things you might not like, but those things often turn into great opportunities.”

The panelists also discussed workplace gender bias. “There are inherent biases in the workplace and they are real,” noted McClain. “But the beauty is that people are now talking about it and are willing to change that.” And several panelists said they wish they had spent less time working and more time with their families. “The guilt about being a working mom is real,” Taylor noted. 

Fighting for maternal rights

Felix caused a major stir in the athletic industry when she joined two other elite track athletes in exposing Nike as financially penalizing the female athletes they sponsored once those athletes became pregnant. 

Felix, one of Nike’s most widely marketed athletes, spoke out after she asked the company to contractually guarantee she would not be docked during the months surrounding the birth of her daughter, Camryn, in November 2018. At the end of 2017, Felix’s contract with Nike expired while she and the sportswear giant were in discussions for a new agreement. 

“The way that these types of contracts are structured, is that they are performance-based,” she said. “They require that once you have a child, you have no time to get back to top form and if you’re unable to compete, there’s no grace period to get back. I, along with colleagues were pushing for change.” 

Almost immediately after giving birth, Felix said some colleagues were still required to race and make public appearances. “We just saw that something that wasn’t right was happening and because I had a daughter, I didn’t want her to experience the same thing. I wanted to fight for this so she didn’t have to.” 

Having to speak up against a company the size of Nike, said Felix, was “terrifying” and extremely uncomfortable, but she vowed to press forward. Felix’s concerns got a major publicity boost in the weeks following the publication of a May 2019 op-ed piece in The New York Times when the FIFA Women’s World Cup championships began drawing attention to the inequities of compensation between male and female athletes. 

Nike changes their tune

By July 2019, Felix abandoned negotiations with Nike and signed a sponsorship contract with sportswear company, Athleta. A month later, Nike announced that they would re-structure their contracts so that they would support and protect women athletes during pregnancy — a move Felix applauded.

“I felt like that was a real win,” she said. “A lot of times, you do something where you hope that somewhere down the line, you’ll see some change and here was something that was tangible. We saw the language in the contract, so it was a win. But this is (an issue) across the industry and there is still more work to be done. There are other companies that still need to step up and adopt this so that it can be the norm.” 

As Felix gears up for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in June, she’s also exploring a new issue of concern. 

“I’m so proud of my heritage and I really focus on causes that are close to my heart,” she explained. “With my experience of giving birth to my daughter, I have focused on the black maternity mortality crisis. I’ve had the opportunity to go before Congress to share my story and there’s a lot to tackle there as well.” 

Felix closed her session by giving the audience a piece of advice: “Embrace the moment. You don’t know how quickly life can change, so enjoy the journey.” 

 
Women in Entrepreneurship and Leadership Event Celebrates Women
The event gives students and young professionals the opportunity to learn from successful women business leaders.