How The Estée Lauder Companies is supporting women in leadership and supply chain roles?
Founded by Estée Lauder in 1946, The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC) has had female empowerment at its heart since the very beginning. The global business invests heavily in female leaders – currently 59 per cent of its vice president and more senior positions are filled by women – and its ethos is very much centred around supporting women and seeking opportunities to build on women’s skills.
It’s a business that’s clearly been making moves in the right direction for a long time, but to what extent does a company known for creating products targeted at women feel pressure to be supporting women within the business, and doing it quite publicly? “It’s not so much a pressure as a responsibility,” says Claire MacIntyre, senior vice president of HR global value chain and corporate functions, reflecting on the history of the organisation.
“Mrs Estée Lauder was a real pioneer. But a lot has changed since then, and I’m sure she’d look at where we are now and the progress that’s been made and be proud of that.”
But, she emphasises, simply flying the flag for women at work is not enough. “The challenges that women have are super unique, and I think now on the other side of the pandemic these challenges are even more pronounced. There’s a burden placed on women to be a mother, a wife and to be consistent at work, and that hasn’t changed [for many years], so we must continue to create opportunities for women to come together and feel able to grow, to advance and to be supported in doing so. We must lift as we rise.”
One of the ways the people team at ELC is elevating women is through its Open Doors programme, which is specifically designed to help women advance their careers, focusing on some of the skills that “we wouldn’t have talked about previously as women – your personal brand, how you communicate that, being persuasive”, explains Naomi Hands, vice president of HR for the UK and Ireland.
Another is its Women’s Leadership Network, a community with chapters in the UK and globally that focuses on how ELC supports women with tools, resources and networking events, as well as by providing opportunities for sponsorship and mentorship from senior leaders across the business.
Women in supply chain and STEM
And it’s not just about supporting women into the boardroom. More than 60 per cent of the scientists working in ELC labs are women, and all of its research and development centres are led by women too.
Supporting women in supply chain and STEM roles is high on the business agenda, and ELC does this in a number of ways. Internally, there’s the Women in Supply Chain Employee Resource Group – a “sisterhood” that has grown from 150 to 900 members since MacIntyre joined the business four years ago, and which entails sponsorship and mentorship from leaders within the company so that when people come into these roles “they can see that senior person and see a clear career path”, she explains.
Externally, ELC has partnered with the British Beauty Council on its Future Talent Programme, which inspires young people to think about STEM careers in beauty and looks to raise awareness of the fantastic opportunities available for STEM talent within the beauty industry.
So, while it’s clearly an organisation with its finger on the pulse when it comes to supporting women inside its workforce, what about those who have been out of it for a while, when, for example, they’ve had children? Well again, it’s something that’s been a part of the business from the very beginning. “Estée Lauder herself was a working mother and so it’s paramount that we maintain a space and environment where working parents can bring their best selves to work and feel like they’re being supported both in their work and in how they balance that with their lives,” explains Hands.
“For us, what we’ve found to be important is parents keeping in touch. We’ve done a lot of work around how we ensure parents feel connected when they’re taking time off for parental leave, so they know what’s going on in the organisation and are kept in the loop with any job opportunities – obviously this has to be done based on their personal circumstances and the extent to which they want to keep in touch.”
More broadly speaking, there’s a number of employee resource groups within the organisation, where women can find other women like themselves. MacIntyre tells us: “Whatever stage you are at, be it returning to work after one kid, two kids, whatever it is, there will be other women you can tap into. It goes back to the sisterhood piece around having that connectedness, finding someone who gets it – it’s super important.
“We’re building programmes and infrastructure so that we can meet women wherever they’re at in their lifecycle, so that if you’re pregnant or on maternity leave you’re not excluded; you don’t have to step out of our world and then we’ll never see you again – we’ll meet you where you are, find what works for you and figure out how we can help you to develop and grow.”
Of course sisterhood is important, but what about the men in the organisation and how they too can support women? “We have some fantastic male allies within the business,” says Hands – one to note being Michael O’Hare, the chief HR officer.
“We want to make sure we’re operating in an environment where the issues women face are acknowledged and discussed openly, and we actively encourage people to keep having conversations around allyship,” Hands adds.
“A term coined by our UK and Ireland president, Sue Fox, is ‘get comfortable with the uncomfortable’, and part of that is involving men in conversations and building awareness around topics that are really relevant to women, including work-life balance, family and caring responsibilities, stress management, bodily changes, etc.”
Source: The Estée Lauder Companies