As we mark Women’s History Month here at LIM College, I am reminded of a cherished member of the LIM family who was a pioneering force and a role model for female executives — Helen Galland.
Helen was the President and CEO of Bonwit Teller in the early 1980s. In those days, it was extremely rare for a woman to be president of a major fashion retailer.
Throughout her career, Helen established herself as one of the most respected leaders in fashion retailing. She began her professional journey as a sales assistant and rose through the ranks to become a President and CEO.
Helen also served on our Fashion Industry Advisory Board for over 30 years, generously sharing her expertise and enthusiasm with the College until her retirement in 2004. Sadly, Helen passed away in 2008.
In 2006, we named a Fashion Merchandising studio in LIM’s Fifth Avenue building in honor of Helen, in part to remind the future female executives who study in our classrooms that someone has helped clear their path to the top.
Ninety-five percent of LIM’s current students are female. These young women know that they can one day become company presidents, CEOs or CFOs, and they have a number of potential role models. These role models include Daniella Vitale, a member of our Class of 1986, who was recently named CEO of Barneys New York. And this year’s Commencement speaker is Liz Rodbell, President of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor — which is, incidentally, where Helen Galland started her career.
Today, many take it for granted that women hold prominent positions in most areas of business, government and public life. Yet it wasn’t always so. Historically, women have had to fight hard — and many throughout the world continue to fight — to prove their value in the workplace and receive the fair pay and respect they deserve. As we observe Women’s History Month, it’s important to remember trailblazing female business leaders such as Helen Galland, and never forget how far we have come.