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Why these two powerhouse female executives made major career changes

Brian Sozzi

Sometimes in your career you just have to know when it’s time to take a big risk.

For veteran retail executives Mindy Grossman and Paula Schneider — who long ran in the same circle in the retail industry for years — the decision to make a major career change came with the added benefit of doing good for the health of society.

Grossman was named CEO of then Weight Watchers in April 2017, after years of successfully building the modern day HSN Inc. as CEO. She even took HSN public in 2008 after being given the keys to the kingdom by IAC Interactive (former parent company of HSN) chief and mentor Barry Diller.

Grossman has undertaken an aggressive re-branding of the now WW International with an eye towards turning the company into a broader health and wellness entity.

Prior to joining HSN, Grossman worked closely with retail titans Ralph Lauren (Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger) and Phil Knight (Nike) in leadership positions at their global retail powerhouses.

“I definitely wasn’t ready to retire. I said if I do one more thing I not only want to deliver a financial return on equity but I want to deliver a human return on equity. I got very interested in the health and wellness space. I love legacy brands. I love the fact this company had been changing lives for 55 years and the opportunity to transform it into something that could be that much more exponential was incredibly exciting. It has lived up to everything,” Grossman shared about her career change at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit on Thursday.

The thinking behind the career shift was also similar for Schneider.

WW International CEO Mindy Grossman, left, and Susan G. Komen CEO Paula Schneider participate in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at Union West on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Schneider assumed the CEO position at the breast cancer research and funding organization Susan G. Komen in September 2017. She climbed the leadership ranks at Warnaco, The Gores Group, and BCBG.

Schneider also admirably led American Apparel as CEO following the ouster of controversial founder Dov Charney — who left the company in financial tatters. It was one of Schneider’s most challenging roles, and this former retail stock analyst gives her major kudos for withstanding the insanity that was the final chapter of American Apparel.

“I got up at a conference and gave a speech on empowerment and it was supposed to be about empowerment in retail and I had nothing to come up with,” Schneider said. “So I got up and winged it and talked about how I was the most empowered when I was the least physically powerful when I was going through breast cancer. Because when you are large and in charge and used to being large and in charge it’s really hard for you to accept help.”

“When I sat back down and got on my phone, there was a recruiter friend of mine that was looking for a new CEO of Susan G. Komen,” added Schneider. “That was Thursday. On Monday I quit my job, I was at a public company and so you do things with integrity. I just knew I wanted to do something else — I didn’t care if I sold one more pair of jeans to Bloomingdales.”

Embrace the journey.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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