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Black Executive CMO Alliance Seeks to Create Opportunity in Beauty — and Beyond

Esi Eggleston Bracey, Unilever's chief operating officer, is a founding member.

An alliance of C-suite marketing executives from all industries seeks greater diversity in corporate leadership.

Esi Eggleston Bracey, Unilever’s chief operating officer, is one of 26 executives who have formed the Black Executive CMO Alliance, which also counts former beauty executives Candace Matthews, Kimberly Paige and Ukonwa Ojo as members.

The alliance was founded by Jerri DeVard, a marketing veteran with 30 years of experience who was previously Office Depot’s executive vice president and chief customer officer. DeVard is a director of the boards of Under Armour Inc., and Root Insurance; she previously served on the board of Tommy Hilfiger, among others.

Jerri DeVard
Jerri DeVard, founder of the Black Executive CMO Alliance. Courtesy of Jerri DeVard

BECA aims to pave a path for future Black marketing executives by offering access to current C-suite execs, DeVard told WWD.

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“You have so many powerful C-suite executives doing this journey in the C-suite alone,” DeVard said. “We say ‘the lonely only’ — that when you look around the boardroom, you are the only Black person in the C-suite. Also, when you’re the only one there, you don’t have the luxury of just having your point of view, you represent all of those that are outside the door. You bring that obligation to represent others.”

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Bracey told WWD she was keen to join BECA to pay forward her experience in the beauty industry, which she said has “been behind” in terms of representation.

“I’ve been fortunate to have 20-plus years in the industry, and I’ve seen the impact that it has on the community at large to have my perspective in the room,” Bracey said. “There need to be more of us and that’s what an organization like BECA does — it helps create a critical mass and an intention to bring up the next generation.

“We have to move beyond marketing and create a whole ecosystem where the community benefits from our marketing,” Bracey continued. “Really what you want is marketing in the business model: ‘How am I of service to Black consumers? Through being of service, I impact the Black community with products and images, but also feed into the community.’ When you have representation, you create integrity in the system so it’s not marketing as trickery, it’s marketing as impact.”

The beauty industry seems to struggle with retaining Black executive talent. In 2007, Candace Matthews left her role as the president of SoftSheen Carson, consumer products division of L’Oréal USA to join Amway, where she is now the chief reputation officer. Formerly the chief operating and branding officer of Sundial Brands, Kimberly Paige is now executive vice president, chief marketing officer of BET Networks & Live Events. In September, Ukonwa Ojo left MAC Cosmetics, which she had joined less than a year prior as its first senior vice president for global marketing, to join Amazon as the chief marketing officer of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

“What would the industry have been like if [it] had been able to retain that talent?” DeVard posited. “There is something to be said for having that representation, being there as a beacon for others to follow. That’s the challenge that you have to put out in the industry: to not only attract, but retain and promote and support.”

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