Lululemon CEO Christine Day On Making It to the Top

Last Updated Apr 6, 2011 6:51 PM EDT

Lululemon Athletica is the hottest thing to hit the yoga world since the downward-facing dog, and the company's numbers reflect it. In the last twelve months, its stock price has more than doubled, and at least some of this success can be credited to Christine Day, the former Starbucks executive who took over as CEO in 2008, making her one of the most successful female chief executives in the country. I asked her how she made it to the top of the corporate ladder while also being a wife and mother to three (now 25, 22, and 11). Here's what she said:

What were your biggest challenges on your way up?
For me, getting and staying in those line responsibility jobs versus a staff support job was one of the larger challenges. [Day defined staff jobs as support roles, like human resources, and line responsibility jobs as ones driving the company's profit and loss margins.] When I was at Starbucks, I left on maternity leave, and when I came back they wanted to rotate me out of my job because the travel was too much for a new mom. I was moved into the business alliances group. I had to quit the company for three weeks [to get back into a line responsibility job]. I had to take a stand. As a woman, you have to start early and stay in those positions to rise up. I find women take the backseat, supporting roles.

Were there any other trying times that stand out for you? I had to learn to take credit for my work in a positive way. I assumed people would know who drove things and this isn't always true. For example, I developed a program and a peer asked me if he could do the presentation. I let him do it and the next thing I knew all my work was being attributed to that peer. I had to get smarter about not giving my work away. It wasn't that I wasn't willing to help others but I had to be more careful about assuming everyone would appreciate what I was doing. The next time he asked me I said 'No, and here is why.'

How do you balance work and being a wife and mother of three? I think sometimes not so well! There are cases where I would have voted myself off the family island. I married a patient, supportive guy who knew when he met me that I would have my own life. He was willing, like I was, to do what worked for us and not care what other people thought our family should be.

Any other specifics on creating a work/family balance? The number one thing is I was a calendaring Nazi. In September, I would block in all my vacation, plus events like the Valentine's Day party and the field trips. My family knew I would be there when the things that mattered happened. When I was home, I was home. Even when I was working internationally, I'd come back from being on the road for 21 days, but then I wouldn't go into the office until noon, and I would be home at 6:30. I would spend 6:30 until 9:30 with the family, and then get on the phone to Asia until 1 or 2 in the morning. As long as you're willing to do things in an order that's non-traditional, you can make it work.

Did you give up anything as a working mom? You can't fit it all in. I went two years without working out. I never got manicures, pedicures, or facials. But for me, having everything is having a lot of love in my life, having real relationships with my parents, siblings, and family, and having a job I love.

What do you think for the future of women in the workplace? Will we see more female CEOs soon? Yes, I do. I think in the next five years, women will come into those more senior positions and board seats. There are already a lot more women in vice president roles and senior vice president roles. I think that it will only get better.

Why do you think there aren't more women like Day at the highest executive levels? Please sign in below and share. And for more career advice, follow @MWOnTheJob on Twitter.
More on MoneyWatch:
  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

Comments

Market Data

Market News

Stock Watchlist