CEW is doubling down on its commitments to diversity with a new forum.
A first of its kind for the organization, the forum will be called “Elevating Black Women: The Urgency for Diversity in the Beauty Industry.” It will take place virtually on Sept. 30 and will feature proprietary research conducted by the organization.
The forum was organized by its Task Force on Advancing Black Women, which include C-suite executives such as Esi Eggleston Bracey, chief operating officer and executive vice president, beauty and personal care, Unilever North America; Karen Chambers, executive vice president, Impala, Inc. and Iman Cosmetics, and Erica Culpepper, general manager, Carol’s Daughter, SoftSheen-Carson, and Thayers Natural Remedies at L’Oreal USA.
Speakers at the event will include Bracey, Chambers and Culpepper, as well as WBA chief executive Roz Brewer; Sarah Curtis Henry, senior vice president of sales and omnichannel retail, Parfums Christian Dior; and Nancy Twine, founder and chief executive officer of Briogeo.
“The initiative really came about because it was called to our attention that we were serving our membership, but we really weren’t serving the barriers and the real, very different challenges Black women had in working in the industry,” said Carlotta Jacobson, president of CEW.
Jacobson acknowledged that perceptions of CEW as a predominantly white organization exist in the industry, and said they reinforced her commitment to change.
“We had overlooked a whole segment of the industry women, and that not one size fits all. There were definitely challenges and we had the wherewithal to do something about it,” Jacobson added.
Jacobson’s philosophy on mending inequity in the industry starts with awareness. “We’re hoping to first make people aware that there are definite barriers — barriers that people don’t see, and challenges that are affecting the careers of Black women,” she said.
Her efforts are reflected in CEW internally, as well. “We’ve increased the number of Black women on our own board, and we have more Black women who are being recognized and honored and speaking. One of the things we do realize is that the more you put women in front of the industry, you’re creating an awareness of them as thought leaders,” she said.
During the programming, research will be presented by Tiyale Hayes, senior vice president of brand strategy and marketing, BET Networks and chief executive officer of Modulize.
According to the data, half of Black women have experienced racial discrimination in the workplace, and Black women are significantly less likely to feel welcomed or like their voice is valued by the industry writ large, as well as receive professional development by their companies.
“A third of Black women have had to change roles to get a promotion in the past year. A third of the population have to change companies to get the recognition they felt like they deserved,” Hayes said. “We spend a lot of time in the beauty industry saying, ‘what does the customer want.’ I think we should apply that same logic [internally].”
The task force members believe that CEW’s platform will provide more leverage than any one individual’s voice.
“Women of Color are saying in large numbers that we have not felt seen or heard or supported by our organizations, and sometimes by our peers and senior leadership,” Chambers said. “What we’re aiming to do is to really encourage our organizations and other thought leaders to add some action behind that, and ensure we wind up with an even playing field for everyone in the industry. That’s where our focal point is.”
Bracey and Culpepper also both lauded the organization’s efforts in statements given to WWD.
“I have tremendous gratitude for CEW in recognizing the urgent need in our industry, and taking the action to bring some of the most dynamic and trusted voices to change the trajectory of Black women in beauty,” Culpepper said. “Black women in beauty have been underrepresented in key positions and often overlooked for career advancement across several dimensions.”
Furthermore, Bracey called out the data as eye-opening, saying “I can clearly see myself in this research.”
“The research is groundbreaking and rich with sobering insights. It captures both the passion and commitment Black women have for the beauty industry and the obstacles we must address,” she said.
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