We've joined up with four HERproject brands as part of a campaign to promote and accelerate leadership for and by women. As part of this, we asked Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability, The Estée Lauder Companies, Inc., for her experiences of and views on this topic.
How long have you been in your current position?
I’ve been in this position for almost three years and at The Estée Lauder Companies for 14 years, starting at the M·A·C AIDS Fund, and then moving to the corporate side. Before The Estée Lauder Companies, I had the privilege of working at non-profits and a variety of other foundations.
Through my experiences at these organizations, I realized that it takes a true partnership across all sectors to solve the world’s most pressing problems. No one silo, or sector can do it alone. In my current role on the corporate side, I’m able to support our company and our brands as they engage in this meaningful work.
What does you day look like?
I get up at around 6:15 a.m., connect with my kids and then walk the dog. I swim or run every day, which is my source of inspiration and where I clear my head. I do my best thinking when moving.
At work, one of the great things about my job is that I work with multiple teams across multiple offices. So, depending on the day, I’ll be in one of our many offices across the city meeting with a range of different people—from a brand’s leadership team, to the responsible sourcing team, to our global communications and public affairs teams.
Whenever I have free time, I’m reading. I read the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg News every day. I read all of the citizenship and sustainability related articles and then lifestyle and business. The volume of articles in citizenship and sustainability is massive—whether it be climate change or ingredient transparency—so I’m always trying to keep up.
What do you like most about your work? What positive impacts are you able to have?
I am lucky enough to work with incredibly creative and passionate people in a company where making a positive impact matters, and we’re able to live our values. The fact that this was a company founded by a woman is truly inspiring.
What’s exciting now about our program is that we’re really integrating social and environmental impact, and embedding this work throughout our company as well as throughout the entire lifecycle of our products and across our whole supply chains.
How have you progressed into a leadership role?
I’ve tried to work for great places that I believe in, and for great bosses. I think I’m a better builder than a maintainer – I have an internal clock of about four to five years before I get bored and think about the next step.
When this position opened, it was an incredible opportunity to work directly with our Executive Chairman, William P. Lauder, and our President and CEO, Fabrizio Freda. I knew that in order to be a successful sustainability leader, you either had to have really strong technical knowledge and/or have strong relationships within the company. I had developed and nurtured strong relationships through my work at M·A·C and believed I could be successful in this role.
Who inspires you as a leader?
First, I’d have to say my mom, who was a working mother. I’m very lucky to have a lot of colleagues here at The Estée Lauder Companies who inspire me every day. Outside of the company, Indra Nooyi is a leader I look up to and respect.
What does it mean to you to be a leader?
Being a leader is about making a difference and having a tangible impact; making choices and sticking with them; listening and following; staying humble and never forgetting where you come from. One of the best things I’ve learned as a leader is to hire really smart people and know when to step in, and most importantly, when to get out of the way.
What is your advice to women who are progressing into leadership roles?
Work for great bosses and great places that you’re passionate about. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and do something every day that you love, including spending time with your family.
I also think that this notion of having it all and doing it all just isn’t true. Every day is a tradeoff. Raising kids is this incredible journey and honor, but it’s a challenge to figure out how to do that and have a job that you enjoy and are passionate about.
I also hope that at some point, we’ll actually be able to de-genderize work so that a great woman leader is just a great leader, and we’re not defined by our sex.
What drives your commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality?
My daughter and my son drive my commitment, and my teams fuel it. I really believe that in order to build a great world for girls, we also need to build a great world for boys.
What drives your company’s commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality?
As a beauty company founded by a woman, a commitment to helping girls and women reach their fullest potential has always been at the core of who we are. We are a family company, and I really believe that the values of community, acting responsibly, and giving back are embedded within our company and give our employees a sense of purpose.
Can you give an example of how your brand is trying to lead on women’s empowerment?
Empowering women has always been a part of The Estée Lauder Companies DNA. I’m proud of our Girls’ Education Initiative and the work we’re doing to ensure that all girls and women have the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills and support to effect lasting change for themselves and their communities. I’m also proud to be part of a company that supports its female employees—we have been named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Employers for Women, and we recently announced new and enhanced family-related benefits for our diverse employee base in the U.S., including 20 weeks of paid parental leave, irrespective of gender.
How can we help more women become leaders in global supply chains?
Mentorship is key for any field of work, but certainly for a field like global supply chain that is traditionally male-dominated. It’s important to have someone who guides you, who serves as a role model, and who actually helps you out on your own journey.