Kimberly (Fine) DeSimone, ’93, Ph.D.’18, believes relationships are the key to success. Relationships have guided her work to empower women, and they form the foundation of her podcast, The Advancing Women Podcast, which reaches women in nearly 200 countries across the globe.
The seeds of this belief were planted early, as she watched her mom care for her and her brother with autism, and were nurtured during her time at Niagara, where the small class sizes enabled her to get to know both her professors and her peers on a personal level. Once she got out into the workforce, she experienced the value of relationships as she moved through positions in local media, a Fortune 500 company, and finally, academia.
After graduating from Hutchinson Central Technical High School in Buffalo, N.Y., DeSimone came to Niagara as a communications major with the idea to become the next Oprah.
“I love talking,” she said. “I think it was like a foreshadowing of the podcast that would come 25 years later in my life.”
After graduation, DeSimone, who also earned a minor in marketing, worked in promotions and events for a local radio station and then for Media Play, a chain of retail stores that sold books, movies, music, and video games. She said this was a turning point in her career, because she met the woman who would eventually connect her to a job in marketing at Fisher Price.
“We hired a woman who worked as the promotion director, and I helped train her,” DeSimone explained. “A couple of years later, she started working at Fisher Price. When Fisher Price had an opening, she reached out to me and said I should apply.”
The position was a temporary one in the company’s licensing department, but because Fisher Price was a division of Mattel, a Fortune 500 company, DeSimone decided to quit her job and take a chance on the opportunity. It turned out to be a good gamble.
“I worked really hard, and I ended up staying there for nine years,” she said.
During those nine years, DeSimone earned her MBA, was promoted to senior marketing manager, and met her husband, Anthony DeSimone, a Class of 1993 Niagara University alumnus who was also working in marketing at Fisher Price at that time.
In 2004, DeSimone was ready for a career change, so she left Fisher Price to teach at a community college and do some consulting work. Two years later, another connection, this time a former professor from her MBA program, encouraged her to apply for a lecturer position in St. Bonaventure University’s business school, teaching new product development and advertising. She moved to the university’s school of communication to teach strategic communication and digital marketing and direct its master’s program in strategic leadership. After earning her Ph.D. in leadership from Niagara University in 2018, DeSimone moved to a tenure track position. She became a full professor in April 2022, the first woman to be promoted to full professor in the history of the school of communication and one of only six women who holds that title at the university.
Earning her Ph.D. while working full time and raising a family is one of the highlights of her career, she said. Starting her podcast is another.
DeSimone created the podcast to share her knowledge from her scientific research to help women transcend the biases and barriers in the workforce. The inspiration for this work came from a photo of her with seven of her Fisher Price colleagues, six of whom had husbands who also worked at the company. Years later, after she had left, she realized that only one of the women in the photo still worked there, whereas all the men still did, and she wondered why.
She also recalled a friend who left a job after her request for a more flexible work schedule was denied.
“I was seeing anecdotally all these really talented women with either impossible choices, or the inability to make a choice, financially, and the torment they felt about all of that, and I wanted to understand it better,” she said.
So she began exploring whether women have the same opportunities to advance in their careers as their male counterparts do, and how they can achieve the highest levels of power, pay, and prestige in a workforce that was created following a “homemaker breadwinner model.”
“The world has changed, yet the outcomes for the workforce haven’t,” she said. “That really drives me to ask how can we create an environment that works for all people who are willing to work hard?”
DeSimone is also a prolific author and speaker on the topic. She was recently recognized as a Woman of Influence in the Inspiration category by Buffalo Business First for this work, an honor that was particularly meaningful for her because it affirms her passion to advocate for women.
Recognitions like these validate her efforts and prove the power of relationships, which is something she encourages her students to pursue. At St. Bonaventure, like at Niagara, the small campus facilitates lasting connections with professors and peers.
“Personal relationships and opportunities, especially in these smaller environments, make a big difference, and you never know where those relationships can take you,” she said, noting that the woman who helped her obtain a job at Fisher Price is now teaching at St. Bonaventure because she reached out to DeSimone when she was looking for work. “They’ve really meant a lot for me in my career.”