As a Manager in Operations, Leila Sabet spends much of her time sporting a neon
vest and working in a warehouse—a role that stands in stark contrast to her vibrant, feminine personality, involvement in the Miss Florida program, and love of all things fashion.
But to know Leila is to understand her resilience and passion for breaking down barriers that keep others from succeeding.
Starting her career in a male-dominated field, Leila welcomed the challenge to re-write the narratives attributed to women and demonstrate that females who found power in embracing their femininity could be incredibly capable leaders.
For someone who confronted assumptions about her ability to succeed, the notion that she would have to prove herself, and work harder to be taken seriously was not a novel one for Leila. When stepping up for a leadership position as a young girl, Leila was focused on making a plan of action and using her love for her school community as motivation to make things better. Others vying for the same role chose to focus their energy on attempts to deter her and get her to back down by making her feel small. Unfortunately, Leila was targeted on social media with xenophobic remarks about her Iranian heritage. Even though she persevered, those hurtful words remained with her for many years. But as she grew through overcoming challenges and barriers, she tapped into her unique identity as something to be proud of, and she developed greater empathy for others who feel a lack of belonging or hide their differences to be accepted.
Leila saw an opportunity to emotionally connect to others by sharing lessons she learned through adversity. “The minute you decide you want better for yourself is the minute that the entire universe begins to shift in your favor. We must unlearn everything we have been told and relearn everything through our experiences.”
She gained confidence by growing in her career and proving herself a capable leader and promoter of equality, compassion, and inclusion. In a year where the world stopped, Leila took on the responsibility of facilitating the training, development, and onboarding of more than 6,000+ Associates and 55+ Leaders as Amazon TPA1’s Learning Manager, as her company experienced unprecedented growth in the history of corporate America. As an essential worker, she stepped up as the leader others needed, instilling structure and stability to prioritize the safety of her associates with the responsibility to fulfill unprecedented demand to get essential supplies and medicines to Floridians. She forged a channel of communication between UN advocates and representatives in Washington in order to advocate for UN initiatives that support women and girls globally. She also claimed the title of Miss Florida Citrus, where she is an advocate for the Citrus Industry and promotes Florida Department of Agriculture nutrition education. When asked about her motivation to take on the challenge during the pandemic she stated, “I understood I had a responsibility as a leader to step forward, show compassion for the concerns of my associates, and keep them safe.” Those words offer us insight into Leila’s resilience while pushing forward.
In 2020, Leila established at her alma mater the annual Lift & Be Uplifted Scholarship—awarded to a Miss Ponte Vedra High School Pageant contestant demonstrating outstanding leadership in her community. This accomplishment is near to her heart as she was crowned Miss PVHS 2013, and believes the experience was instrumental in building her confidence in her leadership ability and instilling a commitment to serving her community. This initiative serves to inspire young women and girls to uphold the values of service and leadership.
This past year, in continued support of women in her community disproportionately adversely affected by steps to mitigate COVID-19, Leila took the lead in organizing a clothing drive initiative in her workplace and secured a generous donation from her company to benefit Dress for Success of Tampa Bay. This donation helped to support more than 2,000 women in the Tampa community served by local homeless shelters, immigration services, educational institutions, and domestic violence shelters. This organization provides women with the support, tools, and training they need to succeed in their careers.
As Leila gained experience and influence in her roles, she saw a need for women to challenge assumptions about their ability to lead and succeed and resolved to work to remove obstacles that hold women back from succeeding as they navigate their careers, especially in traditionally male-dominated sectors. She initiated Character & Attitude Recognition to positively reward inclusive action in her workplace. She has realized that it is not enough to simply talk about the obstacles—she has the privilege of influencing culture in a positive way, holding the door open for the women following her. This is also why she advocates for UN initiatives relating to humanitarian efforts around the world that impact young women. She is a true champion of the value of women’s voices in seats of influence, and holds the belief at her core that “we need to lift up women wherever we can, whenever we can, however we can.”
Part of uplifting women is offering spaces where future leaders share their successes and challenges.“We all have failures in life, and we have to take responsibility for those failures, but we also have to take responsibility for our successes. You absolutely must own your own development and be your biggest advocate.”