At Williams Sonoma, International Women’s Day is about empowering every woman to accomplish big things — both locally and globally. With the majority of our workforce made up of women, we’re working every day toward a more gender-inclusive world.
Whether it’s women leading Fortune 500 companies, starting new businesses, or pursuing their own creative dreams, our mission is to #PressforProgress this International Women’s Day (and every day)! We reached out to some women, including our own leaders, whose work has inspired us.
Read on to learn what International Women’s Day means to them and their top tips for women in the workforce — and beyond.
Janet Hayes, President, Williams Sonoma and Mark & Graham
About Janet: As President, Janet is responsible for overseeing the merchandising, product development, inventory management, creative services, visual merchandising, brand finance and operations of the Williams Sonoma brand. Throughout her career, Hayes has defined her skills in the areas of merchandising and business development, which led to several key accomplishments for the business.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you as a leader?
Together, with our friends, colleagues, and communities, we can create a world that is gender inclusive for the next generation of women in the workplace, the culinary industry, and beyond. International Women’s Day celebrates the progress that has been made and the idea of a better future for gender parity. Together, we must continue to #PressforProgress. I am proud of the work we do here at Williams Sonoma and I am inspired by the strong women I work beside every day.
Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne, Co-Owners of Georgetown Cupcake
About Katherine and Sophie: Inspired by their grandmother, Katherine and Sophie opened Georgetown Cupcake on Valentine’s Day in 2008 in Washington, DC. Since then, they’ve expanded Georgetown Cupcake to major cities around the United States, shipping their cupcakes nationwide. They also have a line of cupcake and frosting mixes in partnership with Williams Sonoma. With a menu of over 100 different flavors, Georgetown Cupcake bakes over 25,000 cupcakes a day and has over 300 employees across the country.
What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give to women entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself. When we first started our business ten years ago, many people thought we were crazy and doubted us. No banks would lend us money. However, we believed in ourselves, even when nobody else did. When people tell you “no”, find a way to get to a “yes”, even if it’s a little harder. Learn to block out the naysayers and have confidence in your ideas. It may take you longer to get there, but if you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything.
Valérie Gilbert, CEO and 7th Generation Owner of Mauviel Cookware
About Valérie: Valérie Gilbert is the CEO and 7th generation owner of the French cookware line, Mauviel. Throughout the world, Mauviel products are used by many famous chefs and professionals. With 1,000 products, Mauviel offers several ranges of high quality products made from copper, stainless steel or aluminum.
Where did your passion in food, the food space, etc. start, and how did you make it your “own” as a woman?
As the 7th generation owner of a family cookware manufacturer, my passion for food is in my blood through our cookware. But it is my passion for food that is ultimately connected to a desire for a healthier society.
Jodi Leigh Berg, Ph.D., President and CEO, Vitamix
About Jodi: Dr. Berg is fourth-generation president and CEO of Vitamix, a 97-year-young, family-owned, manufacturer of high-performance blending equipment. Since joining in 1997, Dr. Berg has helped the company become the world leader in high-performance blending, leading the company to organic growth of more than 400%.
Where did your passion in the food space start, and how did you make it your “own” as a woman?
My passion for food and healthy eating has been a part of me my entire life. My great-grandfather set out to educate the world on the power of consuming whole foods. Now, nearly 100 years later, we’re still focused on helping people successfully change their lives through preparing and eating healthy, tasty food.
While we need to acknowledge that obstacles do exist, especially as women, we need to understand when they are self-imposed and when we are among the people placing the hurdles. I am the perfect example of that. I had people around me who believed in me and saw the potential beyond the limits I was placing on myself. Instead of asking, “Am I ready for that?”, we need to say, “Yes, I want the opportunity! What do I need to do to be ready?” Pushing past those self-imposed limits has been a great contributor to my success.
Jean W. Armstrong, Vice President, Brand Marketing, Williams Sonoma
About Jean: During her over 30 years with Williams-Sonoma, Jean has held roles as a District Manager, Food Buyer and has worked to develop an extensive chef program that is well regarded throughout the industry. Jean also leads the CSR program for Williams Sonoma with its ongoing support of No Kid Hungry.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
This day is a reminder for us women to continue to push ourselves, support each other and break down barriers to widen the path for progress in the workforce and pave the way with positivity and equality for all young ladies around the globe. But ultimately, it’s about women supporting each other.
Shar Melwani, Owner of Cookies by Shar
About Shar: After her daughter’s first birthday, Shar Melwani began creating personalized cookies, focusing on taste just as much as beautiful design. Her business has grown from baking cookies for friends’ and family birthday parties and baby showers to taking orders from Whole Foods and Williams Sonoma.
Where did your passion in food start, and how did you make it your “own” as a woman?
After having worked as a management consultant for many years, and also in my family’s retail business, I never thought of myself as anything but a business person. I had never considered myself creative, but after having my first child felt this is something I needed to explore. Baking cookies was something that evolved organically, and it’s the creativity in it that’s also given me a different perspective on so many things, including an appreciation for the aesthetic of my culture. It’s never too late to explore a passion.
Michelle Murphy, General Manager of Williams Sonoma, Oakbrook, Illinois
About Michelle: With 15 years combined experience working in retail, Michelle Murphy has been the General Manager at the Oakbrook, Illinois, store for just about 3 years. Michelle combines her passion of people and food together.
What are the top three pieces of advice you’d give to women in the workplace?
Your voice is one of your most powerful tools, find it and use it. Don’t be afraid of discomfort, it’s growth. With people, you can do anything. It’s not always about doing it on your own.