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One in a Million: Jo Ann Stoda

By Suzanna McCloskey on 06/16/2015 | Featured Columns & Series

This year, Girls on the Run will serve its one-millionth girl! We’re honoring this milestone by celebrating what makes each of us one in a million and by showcasing some one-in-a-million women who have made exceptional contributions to empowering girls and women.

Famous Footwear—a leading family footwear destination—is a proud National Sponsor of Girls on the Run. Incorporating their strong belief in living a healthy lifestyle, feet first, Famous Footwear is committed to getting girls everywhere started off on the right foot. Jo Ann Stoda is Vice President of Retail Marketing for Brown Shoe Company, Famous Footwear's parent organization, and oversees brand strategy, creative and more for the 1,000 Famous Footwear stores across the U.S.

Here’s what Jo Ann has to share about being one in a million.

Q: Girls on the Run envisions a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams! How did you start to realize your own limitless potential and pursue the path to where you are today?

Jo Ann: I was raised by strong parents who had high expectations of me, believed in me and gave me the confidence to know I could do anything I set my mind to. I’ve carried that foundation with me throughout my life. Every significant turning point in my career advancement has come as a result of taking a risk because I believed in myself and believed I could succeed.

Q: Girls on the Run believes that big things are possible when you keep moving forward. Can you share an example from your own life? 

Jo Ann: I have had many personal losses in my life but have never let them deter me from moving forward. From pain and loss can come a greater sense of self and increased spirit of determination. Letting loss destroy you is simply not an option. One example I can share is that my father passed away suddenly when I was 14. My mom was completely devoted to her family and also was a highly-respected nurse with a career she was passionate about, and this was at a time when "working moms" were not the norm. When my father passed away, my mom had an even tougher job of "doing it all." She really defined independence, strength, determination, courage, and compassion for mevalues that I try to live by every day.

Every significant turning point in my career advancement has come as a result of taking a risk because I believed in myself and believed I could succeed.

Q: Which one of the core values of Girls on the Run resonates most with you and why?

Jo Ann: "Stand up for ourselves and others" resonates most with me. I’m a pretty outspoken, passionate feminist. For me, being a feminist means having equal opportunities and equal choiceschoices to work or be a stay-at-home mom, choices to have a child or not, choices in how you dress, how you look and who you love. We need to teach girls at a young age to stand up for themselves and other women, to be empowered and empower others.

Q: One of the many things our curriculum teaches girls is how to recognize and work through challenges in productive ways. What is a challenge you have faced (or still face)? How did/do you respond, and what have you learned from it?

Jo Ann: For 15 years of my career, I worked in a very male-dominated industry. While most of the time this was never an issue, I occasionally faced people who treated me as something "less than: and doubted my ability to perform because of my gender. Instead of getting angry, it made me more determined to prove them wrong. I learned that competence and confidence always wins.

We need to teach girls at a young age to stand up for themselves and other women, to be empowered and empower others. 

Q: What insight or advice would you offer a young girl today? What would you say now to your 8-year-old self?

Jo Ann: My best advice to a young girl today (and what I would say to my 8-year-old self) is to believe in yourself and know you can do whatever you want to do. It may not always be easyin fact, often it won’t be. But anything worth achieving is worth putting in the hard workwhether physical, mental, or emotionalto get there. I would also tell her that it’s OK to depend on others and be unafraid to lean on a network for support and growth, but at the end of the day you must develop the strength of character, courage and independence to depend on yourself.

In the journey toward developing a strong sense of self, girls may struggle to find their footing. But it doesn't have to be that way. Girls on the Run and Famous Footwear strive to help them find their way and support every step of their journey. Learn more in the "Going the Distance" storybook.


Suzanna McCloskey


Suzanna is the Marketing Services Coordinator at Girls on the Run International, where she serves as the project manager for all marketing collateral, manages the weekly e-newsletter for Girls on the Run councils and works closely with the Partnerships and Programming Departments. She comes to Girls on the Run with a background in nonprofit communications and is thankful for the opportunity to help girls lead joyful, healthy and confident lives.

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