Why a Brigade of Women Wearing Yellow Shoes Marched Onstage at Coupa Sales Kickoff

Julia Hull
Julia Hull
Sr. Digital Solutions Consultant at Coupa

Julia Hull is a Sr. Digital Solutions Consultant at Coupa. She creates digital content and communications to support pre-sales and sales teams. When she’s not recording or editing media, she explores ways to provide measurable value to the teams she serves.

Read time: 3 mins
Why a Brigade of Women Wearing Yellow Shoes Marched Onstage at Coupa Sales Kickoff

Yellow is not a color most people in the business world would call “professional.” It’s bold. It’s flashy. It’s not the demure choice that allows people to blend in. So when a group of more than 60 women dressed in yellow accessories and apparel — shoes, scarves, earrings, blouses — converged onstage at Coupa’s recent Sales Kickoff, it was to send a message. But not the kind you might think.

A few years ago, Coupa’s new CEO, Leagh Turner, gave an interview and shared a speech about a time when she wore yellow shoes and was reprimanded for doing so. A mentor — however well-meaning — told her she shouldn’t wear yellow shoes because women in the tech industry shouldn’t stand out or attract any more attention to themselves. But Leagh now uses that story to inform her leadership philosophy as she strives to be bold, honest, and caring, and create spaces for people to show up as their full selves — yellow shoes and all.

The share of women in CEO positions at top companies is now 10.6% — up from 8% in 2022. It’s often been said that it can feel lonely at the top. But I didn’t want our new CEO to feel that way. I wanted to show a gesture of gratitude and support for her leadership. I wanted others to walk alongside her as she has walked alongside us with her open communication style and compassionate, yet strong, leadership.

And that’s when the thoughts started swirling in my head: What if a bunch of women showed up at Sales Kickoff — our first big event of the year — wearing yellow shoes? What if a bunch of women came together, united, and stood in our yellow shoes to welcome our CEO? What if a bunch of women expressed their solidarity by showing our CEO how genuinely delighted we are to have her as Coupa’s new leader?

I didn’t know if anyone else would be on board, but to my delight, in our internal communications channels, dozens of other women committed to participating. Other women from Empower — the employee resource group for women and people who support them — also stepped up to help organize the group and arrange to present a bouquet of yellow flowers to Leagh as a heartfelt part of our welcome.

When the moment arrived, our group of nearly 60 women marched onto the main stage in front of our CEO.

Microphone in hand, surrounded by other women, I said, “We are standing in solidarity, literally in our yellow shoes and figuratively in our yellow clothing, to say we’re glad you’re here. We are thankful to have you as our CEO.”

a group of Coupa women employees telling Coupa CEO Leagh Turner they are thankful for her as CEO

Leagh expressed deep gratitude and it was clear the gesture was a touching moment — not just for her, but for everyone on that stage. To some, the gesture may have seemed small or silly. But I believe our collective effort was important.

It was important because we stood united as women. We joined together to uplift and encourage another woman who has the challenge and the opportunity to lead a groundbreaking company.

In the run-up to International Women’s Day, I reflected on this further. And the significance of that moment of unity now strikes me as even more important. Women at Coupa and in the corporate world at large have the opportunity to create supportive environments where EVERYONE thrives. We can do that by communicating with each other. By actively engaging and being fully present. We can make eye contact and truly listen to each other. Let’s strive to be honest and transparent yet kind and caring. Let’s support each other, whether in grief or celebration, so no one feels alone.

And let’s wear our yellow shoes, stand out, come together, and make a difference.

Coupa CEO Leagh Turner being presented with yellow flowers

Learn how affinity groups support Coupa's vision of inclusion and belonging.

See How Coupa Is Fostering DEI