When one of Annette Hater’s women colleagues had to leave a small meeting due to a scheduling conflict, it dawned on Hater that this was a rare occasion: She was the only woman in the room.
“I thought, ‘Whoa, this is the first time this has happened in my four years here,’” she laughed.
Hater is the vice president of IT portfolio management at Tapestry, the house of the Coach, Kate Spade New York and Stuart Weitzman brands. In college, she focused on mathematics, which led to a career in which being the only woman in the room was the norm.
But Tapestry is different by design, with inclusion woven into the fabric of its culture. According to its 2022 corporate social responsibility report, 61 percent of Tapestry’s leadership team is made up of women. Also in the past year, the company began tying 10 percent of leadership incentive compensation to diversity, equity and inclusion benchmarks. Chief Executive Officer Joanne Crevoiserat has also joined the Catalyst Champions for Change initiative, pledging to promote equal access to leadership roles for women and helping to create industry benchmarks to improve accountability.
For women in science, technology, engineering or math fields, there are hurdles to overcome when just beginning a career, and the challenges don’t stop once they get through the door.
“Getting women into a science, technology, engineering and math field in the workforce is difficult in the first place, but there are many who drop out because they don’t feel embraced,” said Yang Lu, who is the senior vice president of global commerce and customer engagement solutions. Being the only woman in the room contributes to this, as does whether the company’s culture and policies — such as paternal leave or other family-friendly benefits — support women.
Parental Support at Tapestry
Having her first child in the Covid-19 pandemic was pretty scary for Lexie Ye. “I didn’t know what would happen, or what to expect as I embarked on this journey,” said the director of customer intelligence and data labs. “I’m so glad that Tapestry provided a supportive environment throughout my entire experience. The culture is very inclusive, and no one will alienate you or get upset about maternity leave.”
With Tapestry’s parental leave benefits, Ye was able to take the leave she needed and had a transition period to come back full-time. “We have a very flexible schedule that supports you as a new parent. In the office building, we have a Mother’s Room on every other floor. It’s a game-changer,” she added. Thanks to these benefits, Ye is thrilled that parents don’t need to feel fear about one of the greatest changes that may come in their lives. “At Tapestry, they can enjoy it and embrace it without worrying about getting back to work,” she said.
Hater, Ye and Lu — along with their colleagues at Tapestry — are all dedicated to supporting women in tech, and creating an inclusive space where every woman at every level can thrive. Read on to get to know more about three of these women driving Tapestry, and the industry, forward.
“I don’t need some valley girl coming in here and telling me what to do,” the older manager grumbled at young Annette Hater in front of his staff of mostly men.
It was the early 2000s and Hater stood — stunned — mid-presentation. She was working in the field for a past employer, traveling to 22 regional distribution centers and providing on-site technical support for an enterprise transportation conversion. She miraculously kept her calm in the moment, but says now that the memory has emerged as a turning point in her career.
A few years later, her manager left and the position wasn’t immediately filled. Without asking, Hater naturally assumed leadership responsibilities, though she lacked formal management experience. Several months later she officially applied for the position. When asked why she should get the job, she replied confidently, “I’ve already been doing it for the past nine months. I’ve been leading the team. I’ve been making hard decisions.” She secured the job and has had upward momentum ever since.
In her career, Hater says she hasn’t always asked for permission, and it has been a defining trait of her success. Now, she’s dedicated to lifting up other women in her position as a leader. “What helped me early in my career was not being afraid to make a decision. Most people typically know what the right answer is. Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and make decisions. We love seeing leaders step up and make things happen,” she said.
“Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and make decisions. We love seeing leaders step up and make things happen.”
Here’s what else Hater had to say about …
Opportunities in tech: “When I was younger, I didn’t understand the nuances of being in a technology career. I thought it was just coding, and I’m not a coder. I like to talk to young people about how you don’t need to be a ‘techie’ to get into technology. You just need to try to solve problems and relate to people. Technology is an amazing field; every single company needs tech. You can work in healthcare, retail or finance and there are so many options and opportunities out there.”
Tapestry’s inclusive culture: “There are women everywhere in this company. In meetings, it’s usually a majority of women, which creates a different dynamic. The culture is very inclusive on every level. So often at past jobs, women have viewed other women as competitors, but I’ve never felt that here. We are each other’s biggest supporters. I love that, and it makes Tapestry very sticky to me.”
In the early aughts as a young consultant, prior to joining Tapestry, Yang Lu was in a room with dozens of seasoned mainframe programmers helping them modernize their technology stack. “They were very resistant,” she recalled.
So resistant, in fact, that one person got up on the table and yelled, “You do not have our best interest at heart!”
It was a twist, then, when she was later hired full-time to manage them all.
Throughout her career, Lu was never rattled by these events. She was always just driven by her love of programming. “I never really thought of myself as the only woman in the room, even though that always happened — especially as I became an executive,” said Lu.
It wasn’t until later when, as a chair for a women’s empowerment group, she was talking to young women to gather case studies, and it really hit her: “I realized there was a problem that I had never recognized before,” she said. “It’s a problem that starts at quite a young age, in how their parents’ expectations affect them, or when they are choosing a major for college. Building an inclusive culture where women feel embraced in the workplace and can thrive has to be recognized and discussed.”
Now she is passionate about improving the STEM pipeline by sponsoring a local robotics club called the Pink Unicorns and keeping young women’s best interests at heart in her work. “We share stories and successes. The goal is to help shape the next generation of women in technology,” she said.
Here’s what else Lu had to say about …
Digital transformation: “There is exciting work going on here. Tapestry is going through a digital transformation and creating a global digital platform for all of our brands. After the platform is fully rolled out, we will focus on the customer experience and journey to create a seamless, rich, contextual experience for our customers regardless of how they choose to shop with us. We’re using cutting-edge technology, and as a leader, my job is to build great teams and create the next generation of leaders. I work for my team, they don’t work for me. I want to clear the way for them and help them shine.”
Diversity, equity and inclusion: “EI&D isn’t just something we talk about. It’s in our goals, and we are a very supportive team. We succeed as a team, we fail as a team, and we can have authentic conversations across all levels. Every voice is included, and it’s a safe environment to truly be ourselves. I honestly cannot recommend a better place to work.”
Five years ago, when Lexie Ye decided she wanted to make a career pivot from an analyst into the burgeoning field of data science, her colleagues at a government contractor where she worked were skeptical. She had a good job, they argued.
“No one really understood what data science was, no one really encouraged me. They all had questions on their faces. Yet simultaneously, a male colleague of similar age said he wanted to move to Hawaii and become an instructor, and everybody embraced it,” she said.
It wouldn’t be the first big change Ye had made in her career. She had gotten a bachelor’s degree in actuarial science and quickly discovered through an internship that she didn’t enjoy it, so pursued a master’s in marketing, eventually landing in an analytics career. “I went to college in China and didn’t have a degree in data science, so finding a job here was not easy for me,” she said. Eventually, she realized she wanted to focus more on data and taught herself coding languages — such as SQL, R and Python — through textbooks and online courses. “I started leveraging data science solutions in my day-to-day work,” she said.
In 2018, she landed at Tapestry and expanded her focus in data. “I didn’t follow the traditional path. I am super proud of every change I ever made,” she said. In her four years at Tapestry, Ye has worked her way up from manager to director and enjoys spending her time engaging with communities of women, especially women on H1-B work visas, looking to find their own paths into tech.
“If someone wants to change their path, I would say, ‘Go for it.’ If you are not on the right track now, don’t worry. Do something that gets you excited,” she said.
“If someone wants to change their path, I would say, ‘Go for it.’ Do something that gets you excited.”
Here’s what else Ye had to say about …
Choosing data science: “One of the challenges I faced was that data science was such a broad field, and I didn’t know which path to pursue — data engineering, data analytics or machine learning/AI. I didn’t know what programming skills to learn. It’s overwhelming. I like to provide advice to anyone facing similar challenges, especially if they are trying to change their career.”
What’s on the horizon: “Tapestry is very unique because it empowers our team to build tools in-house. Not a lot of companies do that. Here, we own the whole solution and it’s much more customized to our needs and can grow with the company. Our team is expanding because we have cutting-edge technologies around customer analytics — understanding who they are and how they buy — and we’re expanding our scope and bringing a centralized analytics platform to the whole company so everything can be connected instead of separated into siloes. We’re not just repeating our work every day, we’re always doing something new. For example, we have ‘Friday in the Lab’ projects that allow us to brainstorm and explore ideas that we have never tried before.”
The Fabric of Change
Throughout the stories of Hater, Lu and Ye, a common refrain emerges: Tapestry’s people and environment are unique, contrasting team members’ prior experiences of gender bias and inequity in other organizations.
The company holds itself accountable to its EI&D goals, and the name of its next chapter in its corporate responsibility journey, “The fabric of change,” is also a nod toward Tapestry’s ever-increasing influence on the culture of work.