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We Are Women’s History: Opening Doors to Gender Equality

A Women’s History Month Op-Ed by Sara Moss, Vice Chairman, The Estée Lauder Companies

Company Feature

When Mrs. Estée Lauder placed her name on a jar of her signature cream 75 years ago, she challenged the status quo and built a company based on the principles of equality and women’s advancement. Today, we are still making history. At The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC), we now see a workforce of 84 percent women with over 50 percent of women at leadership levels. Almost half of our Board of Directors are women. We see incredible women across our organization at every level, leading from every chair.

Today, we also see signs of change all around us. In the U.S., we see the first woman of color elected to be Vice President. We see women rising every day as advocates and leaders, and we see youth around the world who are unafraid to raise their voices to claim their fundamental rights. We see equality expanding its reach to include conversations around race, gender and socioeconomic disparities. We see the dots connecting, but we also see that there is much more work to be done. 

Sara Moss Headshot

Sara Moss, Vice Chairman, The Estée Lauder Companies

As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, I would be remiss not to reflect on the unprecedented time we are living in now. The global pandemic has been devastating and challenging for everyone in every corner of the world, but it has been particularly hard on women. Women make up two-thirds of the global paid care workforce, placing them in the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis. The burden of childcare and family responsibilities means women are leaving the workforce at a rate four times higher than men. Yet, despite these incredible burdens, women have done what they always do: they rose to the occasion at work, at home, and at every level of our society. From nurses and caretakers, to business and government leaders around the world, women leaders have continued to shape our collective history through their pandemic response and recovery.

The current crisis has added deep complexity and a sense of urgency to close gaps without losing ground on progress in women’s equality and advancement. Government resources have been drained, threatening public funding and investments to women’s health programs and girl’s education. In the U.S., women of color have been especially impacted; they have less healthcare access and health insurance coverage, and many entered the pandemic earning less and have experienced higher jobless rates in the downturn.

Women have done what they always do: they rose to the occasion at work, at home, and at every level of our society.

As a company, we believe these gaps should be closed. We believe all genders should have equal access to job opportunities and positions of leadership, including access to the tools and support to help them achieve their goals. We believe that all people deserve equal access to health, education and economic participation. Our aim is to help women and girls worldwide acquire the necessary life and leadership skills to become healthy and productive adults who can effect lasting change and break the cycle of poverty. 

Three women on a panel

Sara Moss, left, with her co-executive sponsors of ELC's Women's Leadership Network, Tracey T. Travis, Executive Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer, and Jane Hertzmark Hudis, Executive Group President 

For these reasons, ELC has joined the United Nations Foundation’s Five for 5 Initiative this past year and developed a set of commitments for the next five years, aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, whose mission is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. We are working with other cross-sector leaders to make progress towards achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls around the world by addressing three specific goals: equality of leadership, equality of opportunity, and equality of access to health and education.

ELC’s 2021 strategy on women’s equity —Opening Doors: Women’s Advancement and Gender Equality— honors our history and sets our sights to the future by aiming to level the playing field for all genders inside and outside of ELC, and by working to strengthen a culture of inclusion and diversity, advocacy, flexibility and engagement.

As a company, we have committed to:

  • Achieve gender pay equity by 2023
  • Increase representation of women from underrepresented groups in all regions and affiliates
  • Reach representation parity for Black women at all levels in the U.S. by 2025
  • Expand business-based flexibility for employees
  • Achieve gender parity on the Board of Directors by 2025
  • Achieve gender parity for women in senior leadership positions globally by 2025
  • Expand women’s leadership development programs
  • Minimize bias and foster a company culture of inclusion and advocacy through engaging employees of all genders and levels globally in discussions, trainings and workshops
  • Support, encourage and engage all women at ELC through the global expansion of the Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) employee resource group
  • Sustain our position a #1 leader in supporting research through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation
  • Launch and expand select philanthropic partnerships in health and education
  • Advocate for equality of opportunity beyond ELC through select partnerships supporting women and girls

Already this past year, we have made progress on these goals, including:

  • Launched a Women’s Initiatives Taskforce to promote gender equality, with participation from leaders across the company
  • Introduced flexible work principles in order to support more balance for personal and family commitments
  • Expanded back-up childcare and eldercare employee benefits to support employees affected by COVID-19 closures
  • Concluded a global gender pay-gap analysis with the end-goal of achieving full equity in all aspects of employment at The Estée Lauder Companies
  • Expanded the Women’s Leadership Network to the U.K./Ireland, EMEA and LATAM
  • Mandated virtual unconscious bias training for all employees in the U.S. and U.K./Ireland
  • Joined the UN Foundation’s Five for 5 Initiative aimed at driving cross-sector progress towards achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls around the world over the next five years
  • Pledged our support to the UN Sustainable Development Goal Number 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls around the world to reach their full potential

We have incredible leaders around the table at The Estée Lauder Companies. We could not do this without the allyship and support of William P. Lauder and Fabrizio Freda, the unwavering commitment from my Women’s Leadership Network executive co-leads Jane Hertzmark Hudis and Tracey Travis, and the thousands of others inside our organization who live and breathe this work every day. 

This Women’s History Month we celebrate our founder, Mrs. Estée Lauder. We also celebrate the women leaders inside and outside our company and the male leaders and allies who are their critical partners.

We don’t take our history for granted.  We see the challenges and opportunities ahead and we know that we must work to advance women, wherever they are.  We take time to celebrate. And then we roll up our sleeves.

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