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Top Beauty, Retail Executives on Female Mentorship

At Fairchild Media Group's Women in Power event, three executives shared their philosophies on mentorship.

As mentees become mentors, some of the beauty and retail industries’ brightest luminaries discussed how their mentors impacted their careers — and how they’ve tried to impact others.

At Fairchild Media Group’s Women in Power: Female Forces virtual summit, Jane Hertzmark Hudis, executive group president, the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.; Rose Marie Bravo, CBE, retail and marketing consultant, and Alicia Sontag, managing partner and cofounder of Prelude Growth Partners, sat down with Jenny B. Fine, executive editor, beauty at WWD and Beauty Inc to discuss how mentorship has impacted their professional lives.

“I believe power comes from an unshakeable belief in self. It’s how you bring your best self to work every day, it’s about working hard and performing, and it’s about leveraging relationships — none more important than mentorship,” Hertzmark Hudis said.

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The three panelists represented three generations of mentorships: Bravo had mentored Hertzmark Hudis, starting when the latter worked on Prescriptives, who when on to mentor Sontag when she started working on Clinique in the early 2000s.

“What’s amazing about mentorship is that there’s no beginning, middle or end. We are lifelong mentors and mentees, and that’s truly where power comes from,” Hertzmark Hudis said.

Bravo said she was “blessed” growing up in the industry during her time at Macy’s Inc., where mentorship was plentiful.

“As women in business, we can be who we are, and we don’t have to try to be men or be anything else. I was able to watch women like Carol Phillips, then-president of Clinique, and I saw how she really became the brand,” she said.

On the other hand, Sontag outlined what she looks for in mentees, most of which comes down to proactivity.

“When I look for younger women who want to bond with me, you’re looking for people who are focused on their own performance and being their best every day. It’s critically important to bring the best that you are every day, and especially if you’re the most junior person in the room. Be kind to others every step of the way and always treat others well. Relationships are absolutely everything,” she said.

“Also I look for what makes a good mentee: people who are going to work hard to make you proud and have grit and persistence,” she added.

In terms of how her she approaches her own mentees, Hertzmark Hudis looks at honesty as not just the best policy, but the only meaningful way to impact careers. “The whole idea of being truly honest and being there for them is the greatest thing. My greatest joy today is bringing the next generation along. It’s really about action,” she said.

“Staying connected and advocating, and being clear about what you think is best for them and having the honest conversation is absolutely everything,” she continued. “I advocate for my team, I have their backs, and it’s the most authentic and rewarding thing I can do in my career.”

Chiming in, Bravo added that perennial mentees are the ones who learn the most about their respective industries. “You’re always in learning mode and there are always things you can learn from others, even if it’s what not to do. Whether you’re a mentor or a mentee, it doesn’t matter,” she said.

For more from WWD.com, see:

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