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Cara Sabin Talks Owning Her Voice

The Sundial Brands CEO talked finding business value in her cultural point of view.

Beauty Inc.: After the events of last year with so many women exiting the workforce and the inequity of the landscape, what are actions that you’re taking to make sure women thrive in your environment?

Cara Sabin: One of the most important things to me is what I call “active advocacy.” So often in organizations, there may be formal mentorship or sponsorship programs, but I find it’s about creating a culture where everyone believes in advocacy. You could have a mentor, but that mentee won’t necessarily thrive in advance just because they have a mentor. What is really needed in organizations is having someone that will actively advocate for you in those important conversations, whether they be kept conversations around talent development and promotion, or whether it be assigning special projects. I want to be an active advocate for my team and create a culture where that is the way we do business.

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That extends into the way that we work with external partners and agencies, so there are times that we will meet with different groups we’re considering partnering with, and we make sure that we are clear that this is how we operate. We want partners that operate from a place of inclusivity where they are putting women at the forefront. We try to model that behavior internally, and then require that of our partners.

Beauty Inc: Throughout your career, what’s been most effective for you in making sure your voice has been heard?

C.S.: It’s been a journey for sure, and early on, I recognized that the loudest person in the room didn’t certainly have the best idea. Understanding this dynamic is important. But by nature of the environments that I have tended to be in in my career, with the exception of this current role, I have often been the only Black woman, or the only Black person, frankly, in the room. Something clicked for me where I realized that, coming from a place of difference that I actually bring a unique perspective that is shaped by my experiences and my culture, there’s value in expressing that. There’s value in terms of what I have to say, or people like me have to say, but also, it makes what we do together that much better. It’s stepping into the realization that your voice has power and that by exercising that voice, you’re not only diminishing yourself, but you’re not doing what’s best for the consumer, or your community. Once you reach a certain level of seniority, your voice is sought after and it’s valued. But it’s important, leading up to those positions, to encourage people to step into their voice.

Beauty Inc: The last 18 months have brought so much change — what has been the biggest impact in how you approach your business?

C.S.: On one hand, I would say that nothing has changed, because the past 18 months have sharpened our focus around our mission of overserving the underserved consumer, and centering the Black consumer. The events over the past 18 months have fortified our purpose and commitment.

What is different, and needed, is relentless prioritization, because there’s so many issues to tackle. There are social justice issues to tackle, there are health and education disparities within our community. And we can’t do it all, so it’s about relentlessly prioritizing and making sure that what we’re focused on is going to make an impact and doing it in an intentional way.

For more from WWD.com, see:

Cara Sabin on Change Through Community Commerce

Unilever to Buy Sundial Brands

British Fashion Council Forms Long-term Equality Partnership With BBC