Follow the Leaders in the Beauty Industry
By Nancy Jeffries
Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) honored female leaders across the beauty industry in a two-day live and virtual event on June 2 and 3, held in partnership with Dotdash Meredith. The in-person award luncheon, held on June 2, recognized the best in beauty in a program comprised of a new Catalyst for Change Award, which honored one woman for moving the industry forward through a social movement; the Social Impact Awards, which honored seven mid-level beauty executives affecting positive change within their companies and the industry; and the Achiever Awards, which celebrated seven accomplished senior-level female executives.
CEW President Carlotta Jacobson thanked sponsors and attendees for their continuing support after three years of being apart. When asked what would happen if CEW didn’t exist, Jacobson responded, “Who else is shining a light on women in this industry? These awards bring women the recognition they deserve. Our honorees are the future. They are expanding our industry and building a better, more equitable workplace.”
2022 Catalyst for Change and Social Impact Awards
In her introductory remarks, Leta Shy, incoming group general manager, beauty and style, Dotdash Meredith, observed “Beauty should be both inclusionary and sustainable. It was once difficult to find representation, but today, things are very different in beauty. Things are starting to change.”
Shy noted the abundance of social media influencers addressing a variety of hair textures and styles.
“Beauty is about self-expression. It can mean what you want it to mean, and everyone can find their own beauty path,” said Shy.
Alice Chang, founder and CEO, of Perfect Corp and Cyberlink, provided the keynote, citing innovation and growth in the female tech industry. She explained how advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have impacted the beauty industry, most significantly, the power of AI to create more convenient and personalized methods of shopping.
“As a female beauty consumer, I have tried many products at retail venues; and with my experience in AI I have been able to introduce a fresh perspective to the beauty shopping experience.” She noted Perfect Corp’s pledge to support Perfect Empowering Women and set the stage for the first award of the day, the Catalyst for Change Award.
Jill Scalamandre, CEO, Beekman 1802, and CEW chairwoman, introduced Sharon Chuter, founder and CEO, Uoma Beauty, as a true “representative of the Afro-politan beauty revolution, and the first Catalyst for Change award winner.”
Chuter noted first and foremost the influence of her family in fostering personal strength and perseverance and her personal journey to empowerment and equal racial and gender representation.
“As we continue to fight to empower women, let us be cognizant of the struggles for gender equality. We should never accept that anything can’t be changed,” said Chuter.
Social Impact Honorees
Leah Wyar, president, Entertainment Group, Dotdash Meredith, moderated the Social Impact Honorees panel, which included Simone Jordan, global head of purpose and brand partnerships, Sundial Brands; Debra Redmond, VP-beauty division merchandise manager, Nordstrom; Crystal Sai, executive director, chief of staff, global online, The Estée Lauder Companies; Angela Simpson, VP-US marketing, Nars Cosmetics; Amber Stryker, director, BFA Impact, BFA Industries; and Rolanda J. Wilkerson, Ph.D., senior director and scientific communications fellow Olay and multicultural hair portfolio, P&G Beauty. Social Impact Award winner, Erica Monteith, executive director of brand activations and beauty marketing, CVS Health, was not in attendance. All of the honorees were recognized for affecting change within their companies and the industry.
Jordan emphasized the ability to shift Sundial’s budget to keep small businesses in the Black community open during the pandemic and invest in Black communities throughout the pandemic. She thanked Unilever for enabling Sundial to continue the work it does and to impact the sustainability of Black communities.
Redmond of Nordstrom discussed the retailer’s commitment to the sustainability category, noting the importance of responsible packaging, sustainable sourcing, forward-thinking, and responsibility to their consumers. She acknowledged their partnership with Dyson, with whom they work to keep products out of the landfill.
Sai of The Estée Lauder Companies, cited the creation of the Network of Black Leaders and Executives (NOBLE), at Lauder, with its own pillar of Black talent, who create content and commitment around representation and galvanize their community with such initiatives as partnerships with NAACP and other social justice agencies.
“I had the privilege of having Fabrizio Freda, president and CEO, The Estée Lauder Companies, as my partner in working toward career mobility and progress,” she added.
Simpson of Nars Cosmetics discussed how efforts to bring Black employees together at Nars, enabled a collective voice to be heard. Together she and her team established a Black Affinity Group to encourage discussion and growth.
“Often employees look to leaders to have all the answers,” said Simpson, who acknowledged that the questions asked required discussion and support. By asking, “What can we do to help?” the dialogue was set in motion, and the initiative has maintained longevity.
Stryker of BFA Industries faced the challenge of building the strategy to mobilize people across BFA. Because of the culture of the company, Stryker said there was already a huge commitment to working together to reduce plastic.
“I feel very lucky to work at a company with a commitment to equality within the company, as well as sustainability and reduction of virgin plastic,” she said.
For P&G’s Wilkerson, it is important to address the needs of Black women, who, she said, “have not historically seen products for themselves on the shelves.”
In her role as senior director, Olay, and multicultural hair portfolio, it is important to provide products with benefits that actually work for specific hair care needs.
“My daughter has 4C hair and it’s important that she sees products and product benefits that work for her,” she said. Being able to provide not only hair care but skin care products that address the needs of all shades and skin types across cultures is key. “My commitment to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is central to my work. It’s important for me to communicate to young girls that they can be scientists like me and have those futures for themselves.”
Achiever Award Ceremony
Carl Haney, executive VP, research, product, and innovation officer, The Estée Lauder Companies, introduced the first Achiever Award winner of the day, Susan Akkad, senior vice president, local and cultural innovation, The Estée Lauder Companies. Akkad leads both the Skin of Color and the Ageless Centers of Expertise, collaborating with the brands, regions, and functions to drive and deliver product and commercial innovations that increase relevancy and connection with consumers.
She described her journey in beauty as a “happy accident,” as early plans of joining the Peace Corps changed and her career path evolved along the way. In her current role, she has combined the artistry and science of self-care with a deep connection with women, which, she said, “is often spurred simply through a conversation about lipstick.”
Of the beauty industry, she said, “I fell in love with every single bit of it. I work with skin of color and ageless, inclusive beauty, and I believe that how we respond to inclusive beauty is really a key to our values.”
Jeff Gennette, chairman, and CEO, of Macy’s, introduced the second honoree, Nata Dvir, chief merchandising officer, Macy’s.
Gennette highlighted the mentor/mentee relationship, saying, “Nata Dvir is someone who understands that this business is about relationships, and finding leaders who can help teach you about the dynamics of social media, for example, augmented reality, and more. This relationship is impactful.”
Dvir transformed the cosmetics and fragrance business by creating a more open and experiential environment in-store. Now, she’s taken a fresh approach to digital engagement, storytelling through products in-store and online, and expansion into relevant brands and categories. Gennette said Dvir helped Macy’s move from a brand-centered to a customer-centered culture, and credited her with the ability to listen to customers.
“Everything was inspired by listening to my customers. I learned that for men, simplified stories matter; in jewelry, brands matter; and in beauty, I had a lot to learn,” she said.
She described Macy’s as a “powerful beauty business,” and said she started listening to its beauty advisors and learned the importance of making human connections through products and services.
“With our team, we’ve come to understand what our beauty consumers need and the importance of nurturing our relationships. This awareness inspires me to keep doing a good job at my job,” she said.
Carol Hamilton, group VP-acquisitions and West Coast headquarters, L’Oréal USA, introduced Nathalie Gerschtein, president, of the consumer products division, NA, L’Oréal.
“Nathalie Gerschtein formerly held the title of CEO, L’Oréal, Thailand, and is now demonstrating a mastery of the US market in her current role,” observed Hamilton. She cited Gerschtein’s kindness, respect, and deep humanity, as well as her distinction as the first ex-pat of L’Oréal to receive this award. She is also the first woman to lead L’Oréal’s Consumer Products Division (CPD) in North America and is responsible for the growth, innovation, and sustainable practices across the L’Oréal Group’s North America Zone, in its mass-market portfolio of brands from skincare and makeup to hair care and hair color in the US and Canada. This portfolio includes L’Oréal Paris, Maybelline New York, Garnier, NYX Professional Makeup, Essie, Thayer’s Natural Remedies, Carol’s Daughter, and Softsheen Carson.
In accepting the honor, Gerschtein said, “I have never played it safe and I have not apologized for my ambition.” She stated, “We are raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave. But, we need to tell a different story. I’ve learned it’s not about perfection. It’s about the ability to persevere. I’m dedicating this award to my daughter,” she said, concluding, “Follow your heart, stop listening to the naysayers. Be bold. Be unstoppable.”
Gena Smith, chief human resources, LVMH, introduced Sarah Curtis Henry, chief commercial officer, NA, Parfums Christian Dior, saying, “People make the difference. This is a core principle at LVMH. Sarah, you make a difference at LVMH.”
Curtis Henry works alongside the president and global headquarters to drive all aspects of retail and sales in North America, from sell-in to sell-out, in-store to .com, client experience, and capital planning.
Curtis Henry cited her commitment to lifting others along the way, saying, “Advocacy is so important in this business. In the end, I wouldn’t be standing here without the support of many of you who often put their careers on the line to offer their support. At the end of the day, we all know it takes a village,” she said and acknowledged the support of her husband, childcare provider, and team. “In my culture, we express gratitude to our ancestors, by way of Western Africa and the Caribbean, and the family and people who committed their support.”
She shared that the words, “you belong,” continue to echo in her success.
“I am committed to the industry as well as who we lift along the way, and I’m committed to being able to answer consumers as to whether we have their shade or their size, or whether we have representation on the board,” said Curtis Henry.
The next award was presented by Ann Gottlieb, Ann Gottlieb Associates, to the honoree, Mele Melero, VP-global Dove skin cleansing, Unilever.
“Mele Melero is all about nurturing, and manages a team of 50 across seven countries,” noted Gottlieb.
Melero leads Dove’s Skin Cleansing portfolio, the biggest piece of Unilever’s global personal care business, with nearly $2.5 billion in revenue. Originally from Argentina, with a degree in food engineering, Melero’s career path turned to beauty, and as a champion for women, working parents, and representation at Unilever, she has been a driving force behind Dove’s groundbreaking global marketing approach, impacting men’s and women’s categories on the brand across markets in the US, China, India, Brazil, and Japan.
Melero accepted her award thanking the mentors and advocates with whom she has worked. She recalled that Esi Eggleston Bracey, COO, EVP-beauty and personal care, Unilever, told her “to do what’s right and not what’s easy.”
Melero added, “With effort and studying you can do anything. Always lead from the heart and follow your heart.”
She was reminded of her upbringing, noting the importance of observing and listening. Quoting her father, she said, “You have two ears and one mouth, so always listen twice and talk once.”
Fabrizio Freda, president, and CEO, of The Estée Lauder Companies, introduced honoree Ilaria Resta, president, of global perfumery, Firmenich, citing her work in transforming Firmenich’s fine fragrances and consumer fragrance business, and as an active member of the company’s executive committee. Resta is a results-driven brand expert, currently remodeling Firmenich’s approach to product development and digital strategy, with a focus on innovation, health and hygiene, well-being, and sustainability. In addition to brand building, her expertise extends to category growth models, reinvention strategy, sustainability, social responsibility, and responsible capitalism; believing that large, international companies should be a force for good for people beyond the products they offer. She’s partnered with Terracycle, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and other organizations focused on social responsibility and diversity.
Resta said her journey from Napoli did not begin with a plan, however, “Fate, luck, good advice, bad advice, and unexpected opportunities,” paved the way for her career.
“In Italy, there is a passion for La Vita Bella, we believe in the beauty of life,” she said.
That belief, fueled by passion, people, and agility, is what Resta attributes to her success.
“I could not disagree more with the belief that in business we should be cold. I cry at work, I scream, I laugh. The best results and creations are born out of emotion. Passion can turn a dream into purpose,” said Resta. “Leaving a legacy for me is the give and take of mentorship. I remember every person’s face that I promoted; not the statistics. As leaders, let’s continue to open a door for the amazing talent around us.”
Markus Strobel, president, skin & personal care, P&G, presented the final Achiever award to Alexis M. Schrimpf, design vice president, P&G skin & personal care, and co-founder SeeMe Beauty. He said Schrimpf, who leads end-to-end creative development for Olay globally, across all touchpoints and equity, is “not just a designer, but a metaverse expert.”
Schrimpf guides global design teams for SK-II, Old Spice, Safeguard, Secret, and Ivory; and is the co-founder of SeeMe Beauty, a new skincare brand designed specifically for women over 50. She has worked on some of P&G’s biggest brands, including Crest, Oral B, and Vicks; and recently spearheaded the creation of BeautySphere, P&G’s new metaverse experience, and sponsored Olay’s new Easy Open Lid, to help make Olay more accessible for all users. Her career has spanned several product categories, including being the first woman designer for Hasbro Toy’s G.I. Joe.
“After 30-plus years of designing everything from G.I. Joe to beauty brands, I have learned that it’s all about people,” said Schrimpf. “Whether it’s a five-year-old consumer or a 50+ post-menopausal woman, it’s all about their needs. It’s not yet commonplace for a designer to also be a business leader, however, we all win when creativity intersects with business.”
She thanked CEW’s Cancer and Careers, for their support of working women with cancer, and concluded by saying, “My challenge for you is to be the person who lifts another up and you will find that we all rise together.”