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The New Wave: CEW’s Young Executives

The Young Executive Committee was formed to support the next generation of female leaders in the beauty industry. But there’s no members-only attitude in sight.

“You don’t have to be a CEW member to attend Young Executive events,” said Lia Harris, director of human resources at L’Oréal USA and secretary of the Young Executive Committee.

This story first appeared in the June 27, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

And there’s no shortage of demand for the several annual events with nominal entry fees, which frequently sell out immediately after registration opens. Most are focused on career development for entry-level and middle-management executives in the beauty industry. Some recent panel discussions included guest speakers such as Katia Beauchamp, cofounder of Birchbox; Katina Mountanos, cofounder of Manicube, a service that delivers manicures to corporate offices; Erin Flaherty, beauty and health director at Marie Claire, and Britt Barney, a financial planning associate at LearnVest, a New York City-based financial planning company. Next month, they’ll host Cocktails & Connections, where executives from the recruitment agency 24 Seven and The Boston Consulting Group will reveal their career insights.

“We’ve had career coaches come in and talk about everything from emotional intelligence to how to ask for a raise,” said Ellen Friedman, executive vice president at RPG, a New York retail consultancy for brands, and the committee’s board liaison. “There are a lot of things that you know intuitively, but when you have somebody that has had this long, successful career, they can remind you.”

Keeping things fun is also key for a younger audience. “We’ve worked on making networking a little less awkward and more fluid in a fun way, like encouraging people to exchange five business cards,” she said. “We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously.” (A few years ago, for example, they held an event that was likened to speed-dating, but for the purpose of résumé building — h.r. reps spent five minutes with each attendee critiquing their résumés and dispensing tips.)

Networking, Friedman explained, is always the primary goal of the event’s programming. But other crucial skills for attendees include knowing how to ace an interview, manage one’s finances, dress appropriately, manage up or manage down, speak in public, be a leader, ask for what you want and how to negotiate. “A lot of it is common sense, but for young people trying to break into the industry, it’s a lot of new information,” Harris said.

Mixing executives from all facets of the beauty industry can also be beneficial to young executives. Tiffany Proscia, beauty and luxury lifestyle director at Marie Claire, joined the committee in 2009 and is now chairwoman. (Marie Claire is a sponsor of Young Executive events.) “What was so great about joining the committee is that I got to have exposure to all of these women — whether they were p.r. or manufacturing or retail [executives] — that I didn’t normally have exposure to on the publishing side of beauty,” she said. “We’ve had great stories of people telling us that our workshops gave them access to certain people in h.r. that they wouldn’t have made that connection [to otherwise].”

Of course, there’s also a desire among committee members to recruit uninitiated members into CEW. “It’s all about grooming these people to be professionals,” Friedman said. “We love to see every single person who is a member continue to be a part of CEW’s big picture.”