Although the industry’s lack of diversity has come further into the spotlight in the past year, according to Angela Guy, chief diversity and inclusion officer for North America at L’Oréal USA, success in moving forward all comes down to acknowledging employees’ differences.
Speaking about her own success with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in conversation with Sheena Butler Young, deputy editor at Footwear News, Guy said, “Diversity is our difference. I’m different from you. You’re different from me. Therein lies the diversity. The real conversation is about what do you do with it. How do you engage it, and that’s where the inclusion part comes from. From my perspective, when I look around, I just see the diversity of everything around us and the intersectionality of all those differences.”
The events of the past year — from George Floyd’s killing and the protests against police brutality to the coronavirus — have impacted how Guy views her responsibility.
“It was the year of optics for me,” she said. “You can learn to look at things through a very different lens. We always talk about it in the diversity, equity and inclusion space, that you see things from a diverse lens, but I just saw life differently. I saw hate elevated in a way that I hadn’t seen in a very long time. That doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, but I could see it differently.
“When we’re thinking about the pandemic, it’s being able to see the pandemic through all of the lenses: how it impacted women, how it impacted people of color at disproportionate rates, how it impacted communities, and how it impacted…students and families,” Guy continued. “Our ability to be inclusive and deliberately understand how those differences are being impacted is the work we do every day.”
Guy attributes part of her success to the think tanks that have sprung up around L’Oréal USA under her tenure. “We were able to do roundtable discussions. We had members of our Jewish community come together and talk about anti-Semitism, and we have a women of color think tank at L’Oréal. They really got engaged in this dialogue from multiple dimensions because Asian hate was happening, and we saw what was happening from a Black Lives Matter perspective,” she said. “The think tanks really stepped up their level of engagement and their level of accountability, recognizing the dimension of diversity.”
Reflecting L’Oréal’s diverse consumer base internally at the organization is Guy’s main goal, she said, noting the value of allowing consumers and employees to see themselves represented.
“We’ve been very intentional to ensure that we not only are bringing experienced, young Black women into our organization, or that we’re building a pipeline for them to be able to grow,” Guy said. “She will see herself in leadership because we have it at the highest level for the subsidiary, and we have Black women represented in our strategic committee.”
Guy added that L’Oréal USA leads the beauty industry in terms of gender parity, with a workforce of nearly 70 percent women.
With consumers today on high alert, Guy said taking the temperature of a brand’s diversity efforts and how they’re being received in the public has only grown easier.
“Today it’s not so hard because our consumers are telling us what they think about our advertising, what they think about our products, all through social media,” she said. “So that’s…probably the most important one because it’s heartfelt and it comes authentically from our consumers.”
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