As part of its Women’s Leadership Awards, CEW honors mid-level female beauty executives who have made an impact in the industry and society at large through their actions with its Social Impact Award. The 2022 honorees, who were recognized last Friday, represent a wide spectrum of the industry and personify the power that an individual can have in the context of a large organization. They are Simone Jordan, global head of purpose and brand partnerships at Sundial Brands; Erica Monteith, executive director of brand activation and beauty marketing at CVS Health; Debra Redmond, vice president and beauty division merchandise manager, Nordstrom; Crystal Sai, executive director, chief of staff, global online, The Estée Lauder Cos.; Angela Simpson, vice president, marketing, Nars; Amber Stryker, director, BFA Impact, and Rolanda J. Wilkerson, senior director and scientific communications fellow, Olay and multicultural hair portfolio, P&G Beauty. “These women have made social impact part of their position,” said Carlotta Jacobson, the president of CEW. “We wanted people to see these women and realize, ‘this is something I can do, too.” Here, the winners share what impact means to them — and what drives them to make a difference.
What does impact mean to you? What qualities have most enabled you to rise through the ranks of your company and have a positive impact?
Simone Jordan: Being recognized feels like a special nod to the relationships, community partnerships, and results I have driven in the beauty industry. For many big corporations, impact is often evaluated by just numbers — amount invested, number of those being served. However, the impact I drive through our SheaMoisture programs and partnerships results in lives changes, voices heard, and visibility of those whose stories are catalyst for change. We credit the businesses we serve for helping scale the impact we make because we purposefully invest in resources that go beyond operational funding and also helps them further the impact they can make in their own communities.
I credit my ability to discern the needs of the Black community beyond the headlines of what studies and findings determine by having direct lines of communication into the community. I’ve spent most of my career working in civil rights and with community orgs and nonprofits before entering the beauty space. This has not just given me the ability to rise through the ranks at purpose-driven companies like Unilever and Sundial Brands, but also the ability to create authentic and very responsive programs that uniquely fit the Black community’s needs. This has become a differentiator for our business and a connection back to our community that continues to drive trust of the brand.
Erica Monteith: Impact means being able to have a positive effect on others, and to take an action that results in a better experience for other people. There are three qualities that have most enabled me to rise through the ranks at CVS Health and have a positive impact. First, I’m a good listener. I listen to learn, and in the case of the work I led for our Beauty Mark program, I listened deeply to customers and heard loud and clear that they were demanding more transparency in the beauty industry. Secondly, I’m a strong collaborator. It takes a village to launch an initiative like Beauty Mark, and it took a tremendous amount of collaboration — internally with our teams and externally with our brand partners — to successfully launch the program and continue evolving it relevant to today’s customer. Lastly, I know when to lead and when to support. My role requires me to stretch up down and across the organization, roll up my sleeves and wear a variety of hats, which is an invaluable learning and leadership experience.
Debra Redmond: Impact by definition is to have a strong effect on someone or something. To me, what makes this definition a reality is the innovative thinking that translates into action, and taking the responsibility to inspire others to be a part of that change. I’m personally passionate about topics like inclusivity and sustainability, and have been fortunate to have the opportunity to innovate and lead strategic initiatives to support these areas. When making our 2025 sustainability goals, we collaborated with a diverse group of internal and external stakeholders across our value chain to conduct a new materiality assessment. At the time it was important to set goals that prioritized the social and environmental issues that were most relevant to our business and inspire our teams’ ambitions to support these goals. With the launch of BEAUTYCYCLE, our team is working hard to support Nordstrom’s goals to take back 100 tons of beauty packaging to be recycled and ensuring 15 percent of our assortment qualifies for our sustainable style category by the year 2025. While we’re proud of our early progress, we know we cannot do it without the help of our partners; and we know there are always more opportunities for us to do more to address these important issues.
Crystal Sai: Impact means moving the needle in a measurable way, evidenced by quantifiable results grounded in both data and positive sentiments of those affected. Being able to show actual progress with data/metrics and feedback from community members is the best way to both seed and feel impact in a community.
I have a nontraditional background in beauty; I’ve held roles in supply chain, marketing, communications and now global online. The common thread has been my ability to listen, express empathy and a desire to understand, and a passion for connecting with everyone I interact with. I also can’t help speaking up for underrepresented or minority voices, likely because of my personal experiences around feeling unheard, misunderstood or outside of the majority, especially in corporate settings. I ask a lot of questions, love efficiency and data, and have learned to leverage a combination of data and analytics to drive business results, and deep connection with people and culture to create meaningful, authentic content, collaborations and partnerships.
Angela Simpson: When I think about having “impact” in beauty, I think about inspiring others to become agents of change, mentoring the next generation of marketing leaders, and motivating my colleagues at NARS and across the industry to think beyond standard KPIs and consider our daily influence on all people. I’m a passionate marketer and known as a “truth teller.” I hold myself accountable, but I’m comfortable asking for help, collaborating with others, iterating on ideas, and following up with concrete actions to improve processes and products.
As I’ve become more senior, I’ve learned that it’s the relationships and people skills that garner respect, and facilitate innovation, ideas, and insights. I create space for people to feel heard by allowing them to be vulnerable, open and honest, which establishes trust and helps them excel. For example, I always tell my team, ‘we can try something new, assess it and improve it.’ Once I persuade them to try something new, they run with it and put their mark on the work. It’s the success of others — people who are willing to go on the journey with me to improve and grow — that has enabled me to rise through the ranks.
Amber Stryker: In the past, brands that wanted to have an impact would often divert a small percentage of their revenue toward donations. This approach no longer cuts it. Impact has to be woven into the fabric of the core business. At Beauty for All we do this in two fundamental ways: self-expression and sustainability. We’re working to change the beauty industry so that everyone feels they can confidently reveal their true selves. We’ve committed over $25 million to Black and Latinx brands this year, delivering the best products to our members. We partner with Latinx voices like the inspiring Becky G, who leads Tresluce, our beauty brand that prioritizes sustainability through clean products packaged with less plastic. And we work to be mindful of avoiding potentially harmful ingredients and educating our members on what to look out for through our The BFA Clean Standard.
Collaboration is a key quality that has enabled my success. It is essential to partner with impact champions at every level of the company. My role ladders up to our Chief Brand Officer, Jenna Habayeb, who supports the BFA Impact strategy at every turn. The entire team tells the story of our work, while elevating Black, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ focus communities and creating an overall inclusive environment. They amplify the voices, faces and stories of our diverse brand partners, creators and community to continue to democratize beauty at large. On paper, I’m a team of one, but by collaborating closely with all of our teams, I’m able to plug into a broad support system. By establishing the framework and foundation of the work, I can make it easier for our teams to incorporate our impact goals into their daily jobs.
Rolanda J. Wilkerson: Impact means having a strong, positive influence or effect on people especially through the work that I do. For me, it’s rewarding when I have impact and influence internally with my colleagues and coworkers, as well as outside of P&G Beauty’s walls, with our consumers. I’m grateful to the many leaders and mentors at P&G who have consistently recognized my potential and created opportunities for me to grow and thrive.
When it comes to making a positive impact, the values that mean the most to me are authenticity, passion for the work, influential storytelling, inclusivity and importantly, collaboration. We don’t get work done alone in a bubble and we do our best work when we enjoy what we do. I appreciate helping to set the vision and bringing people along on the journey.
I’ve also benefited greatly from having effective communication skills, the ability to translate science into meaningful consumer experiences, and from the joy I find in educating and bringing the science to life behind our products. This has allowed me to have a unique voice in the industry for women and especially women of color. I love that my work has also helped me to amplify the beauty in STEM.
How do you think about social action vis a vis your professional life and what’s been effective in terms of using your larger platform to help impact positive change?
Simone Jordan: Social action is creating an impact that gives the transferrable ability for someone who was aided through a service to go on to serve someone else. This is often referred to as ‘paying it forward.’ However, there haven’t been enough initiatives created that allow the Black community to invest beyond themselves into others. I know from experience that to create change, often the help has to come from those that the community trusts. For social action to have a ripple effect in the Black community, we must invest in the businesses, organizations, and leadership that can transfer learnings, relationships, and wealth back into their communities. I’m grateful that within my leadership I’m given the opportunity to create these investments models and, bring those who also share years of experience building strong Black communities onto my team. This expertise did not always sit within this industry, and often was consulted through agencies and partnerships. I’ve been given a unique opportunity to demonstrate how bringing this talent onto a brand and fully integrating it into the day-to-day operations can help drive business growth and deepen a customer’s brand affinity
Erica Monteith: I’m fortunate to work at a purpose-driven company focused on customers’ needs and the causes that are most important to them, to deliver solutions that make healthcare, beauty and wellness more personal, convenient and affordable. I’m constantly thinking about social action and the positive outcome our products, solutions and experiences can provide. As one of the largest and most trusted retailers in the country, we have an opportunity and an obligation to use the power of our scale to create positive impact. I’m passionate about beauty and the important role it plays in overall health and wellness, and I am always thinking about ways to innovate around Beauty Mark, DE&I efforts and beyond to reinforce CVS’ ongoing commitment to transparency and equity in the beauty aisles.
Debra Redmond: Nordstrom has provided me with the platform to act as a leader in the beauty industry and lead with the fundamental belief that we should leave the world better than we found it. We identified an opportunity to create positive change by being the first major retailer to offer a beauty packaging recycling program for all brands. From the support of my colleagues at Nordstrom to our vendors and brand partners, it has been an honor to bring others along on this journey and create a positive impact. We’ve been able to have meaningful conversations and encourage brands to create more sustainable products from ingredients to packaging. The customer is at the core of everything we do, our mission is not only to make them look good but to feel good, which comes with inspiring them to do good.
Crystal Sai: Impacting one person is still social action, and activism looks different for everybody. Over the last several years, and especially in the last two, I’ve come to realize the growing importance of corporate activism, and how driving and influencing a company towards meaningful action can make a huge difference. Your culture is only as strong as the people who help create it, so it’s imperative that everyone feel included.
Additionally, a lot of social action has transpired during my career here through well thought out visions, strategies, plans and executional excellence, with the goal of cultivating community and empowering people to take action. Creating a space and platform for people to engage with and feel a part of, like NOBLE — our Network of Black Leaders and Executives — is one of the best ways to drive social action and, ultimately, change. People here are always willing to jump in and help, and we always start from yes. With this mentality, we’ve been able to create magic together and real impact.
Angela Simpson: As a Black woman, “social action” is always top of mind in both my personal and professional life. Social action is the intentional pursuit of a positive and purposeful impact on others. I have a people-first mind-set. I’m willing to expend my political capital and take risks on behalf of what’s “right.” At my current level, I feel I have a responsibility to speak up on sensitive issues. Not all issues are sensitive, but I’m very intentional about what I support, who I’m speaking to, and what my message is to ensure that real change happens when it needs to. As my success grows, I have more responsibility to leverage my platform to initiate conversations that can bring awareness. I also prioritize time every work week to dedicate to social action, including working with the Shiseido Black Cultural Society, NARS’ Beauty. Uncensored affinity group, and NARS’ Beauty of Change platform, as well as mentorship and advocacy programs inside and outside of the organization.
I build strong relationships that are based on trust and transparency. The most effective part of my platform is being able to leverage a strong network of colleagues to build allyship and consensus on key issues. I work diligently to engage in one-on-one conversations with key stakeholders to ensure a unified and supported vision.
Amber Stryker: To effect positive change, you need purpose, people, and proof. The brand’s purpose is your north star. It should explain not only the aims of the brand’s social impact, but align how with its business goals.
The second is people. You can’t go it alone, and why would you want to? It’s my job to inspire and motivate people across the company, building on their passions and enabling them to own our impact in every role.
Lastly, proof is required to set actionable goals. We need to collect and understand data so that we can set a baseline and measure our impact against it. This is how we hold ourselves accountable, set priorities, and eliminate bias.
By making purpose, people, and proof our priorities, we’ve been able to inspire and create positive change by bringing more Black and Latinx brands to our members, identifying and educating around clean beauty and reduce virgin plastic.
Rolanda J. Wilkerson: It’s the best of both worlds when your career can allow you to have a positive impact through social action. I’ve always been passionate about beauty and ensuring that women of all cultures, especially those that have been historically underserved by the beauty industry, have products that better meet their unique needs. I’ve also always been passionate about bringing more young girls into STEM and exposing them to the vast options in STEM careers, especially in beauty. I’ve been able to amplify this through outlets like TEDx, beauty magazines, television and in digital content. These are unique forums I’m proud to use as ways to advocate for stronger inclusivity, including STEM inclusivity.
My passion areas of Beauty and Science have collided. The platform that I have through my work allows me to amplify the needs and opportunities for women in STEM, drive a greater awareness around multiethnic and multicultural beauty needs and help develop transformative products.