As we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month here at Levi Strauss & Co., we recognize the huge importance of uplifting women’s voices and creating equitable access to leadership positions — not only for the good of women but for the benefit of all people worldwide. When talent and potential is unlocked in every individual — and we create a seat for everyone at the table — we can all go farther together.
One of our most pressing goals at LS&Co. is to continue growing diverse representation at the leader level. This includes investing in the next generation of women leaders by creating opportunities to help them grow their careers and provide them with professional development opportunities within the company. And in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the timing has become even more critical.
In a time when so many women are leaving the workforce, it is imperative that we empower strong women and create an environment that values all voices equally. — Serena Leahy, director of Levi’s® Women’s Merchandise Planning
Launched as a pilot in the U.S. in late 2019 and then expanded to Europe, our inaugural RISE Leadership Program was a momentous first step toward this goal, providing key career guidance and leadership development opportunities for many talented LS&Co. women. Participants were invited based on their exemplary job performance and contributions at LS&Co.
“The RISE Leadership program gives us the chance to provide a high-touch, curated development program to emerging company leaders who can accelerate their next career growth move — whether that’s a promotion or taking on a new challenge at LS&Co.,” said Michelle Williamson, vice president of People & Culture and RISE program sponsor.
Program elements include formalized learning opportunities (including some previously only available to top executives and leaders), peer networking and learning, high-touch mentorship experiences and recognition opportunities. The end goal is to embolden women to take on new leadership challenges and accelerate their career growth.
“One of the most valuable aspects of this program is how it is all about celebrating diversity and authenticity,” Mounira Babou, senior merchant and member of the LSE cohort, said. “The fact that LS&Co. implements such a program shows our true commitment to building a future where equality and representation will be a given.”
Vicky Skelton, digital selling and transformation director and U.S. cohort member, described how her time at RISE led to sharing those valuable experiences with many others. “Every RISE session we attended held real-life value, and I have been able to apply many of the learnings to my ’day job’ at LS&Co. — both consciously and subconsciously,” she said. “I am currently in the process of cascading my learnings with my team across a number of development sessions and I am referencing and directly using so much of the content that was shared with us.”
My experience with the RISE program made me a better leader. It gave me permission to be vulnerable, and that is a good thing. — Marjorie Mays, planning and allocation director
As Guilia Rosetti, digital marketing manager and LSE cohort member, put it: “I think many of us, maybe women especially, tend to be really focused on the present moment in terms of deadlines, problems to solve, projects to complete and decisions to make quickly. Having a program like RISE is important because it allows us to press pause for a second and look at the bigger picture: for our teams, our families and the company, but also for ourselves and what we want to achieve.”
Recognizing this year’s theme for International Women’s Day, Choose to Challenge, it urges us all to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes and help forge an inclusive world. Here at LS&Co. we are proud to be 58% women globally, and we are committed to continue empowering and connecting them to opportunities like RISE so they can step up to challenges and shine.