Using Your Seat at the Table to Drive Progress in Equality

Throughout my career, I’ve understood that when you have a seat at the table—whether on a board or certainly on the executive team—it is vital to ensure that you are challenging what are perceived as conventional “norms” and continuing to push to achieve Inclusion, Diversity & Equity. This means holding leaders accountable and asking the right questions, even when the answers might be difficult: What strategies are in place? Where are there gaps? What are the tangible results and numbers that reflect progress?

When I was just starting out in my career, there was the focus on affirmative action. Since then, we’ve progressed to diversity, to inclusion, and to equity. Now, the next step is belonging. It’s about how we actually create an organization where everyone feels valued, because they should be. That is ultimately what equality is about. We have continued to make progress, but we have much, much more to do.

It is incumbent upon leaders, as well as companies, to use their seats at the table to make a difference and move the needle toward equality. At The Estée Lauder Companies, we recently established a formal mentorship program for Black employees in the United States, matching every participant to a leadership-level sponsor or mentor. We created a new Equity and Engagement Center of Excellence, a capability that underscores the company’s core values and commitments to build greater equity and representation in every aspect of its business, from employees to consumers. We also announced our strategy on women’s equality. In 2017, I cofounded the Women’s Leadership Network to support women as they build their careers at the company. These are among the kinds of programs that companies need to establish, coupled with looking closely at human resources processes and measuring progress, to drive results.

As I reflect on the incredibly challenging events of the last 18 months, there has been progress, including the requirement for more disclosure from companies regarding representation at various levels throughout their workforces. Looking to the future, it’s imperative for every one of us to use our seats at the table to keep the pressure and focus on continuing to make a difference.