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?
Lela Coffey: It’s all happened so suddenly and so fast. Some of what we’ve done are very small things, and some of them are more meaningful. One of the first things we started to see was how stressed women were getting right around lunchtime. We recognize that women were literally having to be cooks and lunch ladies at lunchtime because their kids were home. In my organization, we said lunch is a free zone, so there will be nothing scheduled at lunch. It was creating a little bit of flexibility. It’s about what we learned about working flexibly when we were out, and what can we maintain going forward.
There’s this other experiment called Work Ways done across the company. Some may be saying ‘We’re going to go in Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday’ and some are saying ‘we’re going to have a week here, and a week there.’
The biggest thing is dealing with everybody individually. One of the women I work with needs flexibility to drop the kids off at daycare peacefully. We found ways to just make it very personal to what works best for people.
Externally, one of the things I own is multicultural hair. When COVID[-19] hit, salons closed, and we launched a program called the Salon Giveback program to give grants.
Beauty Inc: Throughout your career, what’s been most effective for you in making sure your voice has been heard?
L.C.: I stopped waiting for people to ask it to be heard and started speaking out. That wasn’t something that happened right away, it took a bit to build up the confidence to say, ‘here’s what I think,’ and to take up my space in a room and take my seat at the table.
For me now, it’s important to create the space for other women and recognizing how I first was when I came into the company, not always feeling like I had the confidence. It’s creating that little bit of space for them to have that opening to give their point of view.
Beauty Inc: The last 18 months have brought so much change — what has been the biggest impact in how you approach your business?
L.C.: One of the biggest things is more related to the social unrest that happened last summer. I spent a lot of time working with our brands to make sure they are inclusive. The honest truth was, not all of our brands were in the same position to take such a visible position externally. I made this framework, the ‘Four R’s’: reach, representation, relevance and resonance. It’s a framework brands can use when they think about any group of diverse consumers, if you think about your touchpoints. What I’ve worked with the brands on is how do you assess where you are, and how do you get yourself on the path to move forward to building inclusive brands. It’s going to be more critical as we move forward.
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