Jen Sey was a champion gymnast before ascending to become global brand president of Levi's. Here's how her experience competing — and speaking out about abuse in the sport — has influenced her leadership style.

  • Before working her way up the ranks at Levi Strauss & Co., Global Brand President Jen Sey was an accomplished gymnast. 
  • In 2008, she published a memoir that detailed abuses in the sport, and she was a producer on the Netflix documentary "Athlete A," which debuted this summer. 
  • She said her experiences in gymnastics have had a large impact on her leadership style: "One of my jobs, if not the main job, is to create the conditions where people feel that they can make meaningful contributions to this business and this brand, and to do that through encouragement, and not through demeaning people."
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Jen Sey has worked at Levi Strauss & Co. for more than 21 years, ascending from an entry-level marketing position to global brand president, a new role she was promoted to at the end of October.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, she outlined the denim brand's top priorities as it positions itself for success in a period when the retail industry is seeing increasing online shopping activity, largely thanks to the pandemic. 

Read more: Levi's new brand president reveals her three-prong strategy to bring back sales after the pandemic created a reckoning for jeans

But before she climbed the corporate ladder, Sey was an accomplished gymnast, winning the US National Gymnastics Championship title in 1986, when she was 17.  

In 2008, she published a memoir called "Chalked Up," in which she detailed abusive coaching practices and the toxic culture she experienced in the sport.

Sey also produced and was featured in the documentary "Athlete A," which debuted on Netflix this summer and describes the abuse suffered by gymnasts at the hands of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar pleaded guilty to multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct and was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in 2018. 

Sey said her experiences in the sport have had a large impact on her approach to leadership at Levi's. 

"I don't think anyone's ever heard me yell," she said. "One of my jobs, if not the main job, is to create the conditions where people feel that they can make meaningful contributions to this business and this brand, and to do that through encouragement, and not through demeaning people."

"I don't think that's productive and it's not the person I want to be."

Sey said that while writing "Chalked Up," she worried that her supervisors at Levi's would see her speaking up about her past as a "distraction," and so she tried to stay quiet about it. Once she was making appearances on shows like "Good Morning America" to talk about the book, though, it was hard to keep it a secret. 

"It was just an opportunity for me, then, to kind of set all the facades aside and just bring my whole self to work. And I think it's not uncommon for women, at least back then — this was 12 years ago — to keep some of their personal life away from work," she said. 

She said she found having something so personal about her life come out in the open ended up having the opposite effect of what she had anticipated. 

"The effect actually was that people saw me as a braver, more courageous, more creative, and stronger leader," she said. "It was then that I set all of that hesitation aside and just tried to be more my whole self at work, and I think that frees other people to do the same." 

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