You and I have always known that women kick ass in leadership positions (and give the best career advice, too). And for a long time, we didn’t need more proof than looking to the CEO of our childhood households, professors, bosses and managers at work. But now the numbers are in.
According to corporate research conducted by Harvard Business Review, women are thought to be more effective than men in 84% of skill sets most frequently measured in thousands of 360-degree reviews, including taking initiative, acting with resilience, driving for results, and displaying high integrity. What’s more, “women are perceived by their managers—particularly their male managers—to be slightly more effective than men at every hierarchical level and in virtually every functional area of the organization,” according to Harvard Business Review.
Data like that is undeniable (thanks to the force of females who have put in the work) and nowhere is it more needed than in industries that almost entirely cater to women, but are still largely run by men. That’s why we tapped some of the biggest bosses in beauty—including CEOs, scientists, investors, and entrepreneurs—to share how they lead with power, empathy, and purpose for an overdue, industry-wide sea change that’s teeing the rest of us up to rise and shine. Below, see the hacks and habits that have put beauty’s brightest women on top.
Cara Sabin, CEO of Sundial Brands and Co-Founder, 25 Black Women In Beauty
Don’t speak just to fill up silence; be purposeful and intentional with your words—they’ll have greater impact.
Miranda Kerr, Founder and CEO, Kora Organics
Negotiating a Raise
Negotiating your starting pay or asking for a raise are key factors when deciding to take a new job or feeling valued in an existing position, so you need to be prepared and confident that your accomplishments and /or performance merits a pay rise and then demonstrate that. Treat the discussion as a collaboration and don’t go in on the defense—set the tone for your request by expressing gratitude, then highlight your key accomplishments and contributions.
Think beyond your monthly pay (dollar and cents) and look to other things that may be important to you such as workplace flexibility for example, a day working from home, or company paid training and tuition in your chosen field.
Pocket Sun, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, SoGal Ventures
Finding Next-Level Mentorship
I don’t think we need to hold on to the idea of having a one-on-one, exclusive mentor (although if you have a good one it could be tremendous). You can get virtual mentorship from blogs, podcasts, etc., and sometimes that advice is just as helpful. You can also have a group of people with expertise and experience that you can reach out to with questions—it doesn’t need to be one person.
Finding a sponsor for your career could be even more important, someone who would recommend you for awards, features, funding, promotions, etc. Do NOT count on a mentor within the same company; you should always have a resource that’s outside of your company.
I highly recommend having a coach/therapist. It’s helped me a lot in gaining inner resiliency.
Deepica Mutyala, Founder and CEO, Live Tinted
The Biggest Asset of Leading as a Woman
I lead with empathy, which doesn’t mean weakness. I do my best to understand the mindset of my team and help them overcome any challenges they may face. I want to ensure everyone feels empowered, healthy, and enjoys coming to work everyday. In my experience, I cannot say empathy has been a strong suit of male leadership.
As an entrepreneur in the age of social media, it’s very easy to get distracted with what you’re seeing online. The best advice I’ve received is to keep blinders on and stay focused on my mission. The rest is just noise.
Erica Douglas (aka Sister Scientist), Cosmetic Chemist
What to Do When Someone Takes Credit For Your Work
First, address the person directly and let them know that they have overlooked your contribution. In many cases it is unintentional and they will correct their mistake. But if they do not take the opportunity to self-correct, then go around them and find a professional and graceful (some may say petty but I prefer informative) way to show ‘receipts’ of your contribution. It could be as simple as an email to the team after a group project like ‘I just want to take the time to thank the entire team for your contributions to this project. I would have never been able to pull together the last edits of this presentation without the data you shared with me.’ Never let somebody take your shine! You deserve it!
As an entrepreneur, the power of ‘NO’ and delegation are some of the most valuable things I’ve learned. I am very candid with people about the value of my time and the need to prioritize. I will say ‘Unfortunately, I don’t have the capacity at this moment to handle this.’ Then I will suggest an alternative person they can look to or another potential solution. This shows that my inability to help is not a result of me not caring about them or their needs.
Melissa Butler, Founder and CEO, The Lip Bar
Shutting Down and Rerouting Conversations That Don’t Serve
This happens to me all the time. The best way to go about it is to remind whoever you are speaking with of your purpose. For example, I am a beauty founder. I sell makeup and I know a lot about it, but that’s not my purpose. My purpose is to remind people that they are enough, that they are already beautiful and to empower and educate. I go to so many industry or networking events and people hear about I do so they will try to talk to me about lipstick. I know more than that; I have opinions on the stock market, politics and business affairs. I bring a lot of value outside of lipstick knowledge.
Keeping Good Company
The best piece of business advice I’ve received is not to be the smartest person in the room. I practice this in everything from hiring to networking. I am forever a student and am always trying to learn. If I can learn from my team that is awesome or from my partner that is beautiful. I’m better for it. And taking that one step further, don’t learn just for the sake of learning. Apply the knowledge, practice and grow.
Kadi Lee, Celebrity Colorist and Co-Founder, Highbrow Hippie Salon
Grace Under Pressure
I have had two mentors in my career, and they both gave me two pieces of indispensable advice. My first mentor, the legendary Constance Hartnett, was the color director of Frederic Fekkai in NYC for many years before she retired in her 80s. As one of her last assistants, I would help navigate her day that would sometimes consist of 25-30 clients. Not only did this woman never complain, she always remained calm and zen.
One day I started to visibly panic when my second assistant went missing and we started getting backed up. Timers were going off left and right. In the middle of my meltdown Constance sternly took me aside and told me to get it together and keep a poker face, She said that most likely the clients had no idea which timer was for what person, so my panic was unnecessary and not solving anything. She said calmly, ‘be like a duck Kadi,’ and she walked away. She meant, it’s OK to be paddling like hell underneath the surface, but above water, appear calm and just float and glide along. To this day, the first thing clients comment on when they are in my chair is how calm I am, and it always makes me giggle inside and think of her.
Claiming the Space You Deserve
My second mentor, the incredible Serge Normant, has been selfless in giving advice over the years. One day I was feeling very low about a client questioning whether I was capable of doing her hair because I was black and therefore had different hair than she did, and he told me to always be proud that I was different, and that one day the very thing that made me different, is what would set me apart from the rest. That one piece of advice changed my career, and my outlook on life, and I now proudly enter every space like I not only belong but deserve to be there.
Build a Professional Sisterhood
When women come together, we’re unstoppable. It’s so important to find your tribe or community because that support can lift you up so high.
My best tip for doing this is never be afraid to give a compliment and communicate the good things people are doing. I feel like people focus too much on the negative, but it’s just as powerful, if not stronger, to focus on what people are doing right versus what they are doing wrong. Support gives a foundation to whatever you’re trying to achieve and build, which is how I was able to launch my own brand.
Gabriela Hernandez, Beauty Historian and Co-Founder, Bésame Cosmetics
Rising Above Imposter’s Syndrome
I’ve suffered imposter’s syndrome many times—it is part of being a creative to always doubt yourself or think that your work is just not good enough. I just have to remind myself of the things I have accomplished and the customers who love our products, and forge ahead. At a certain point, being a perfectionist will stifle growth, because you can always make something better.
Working Smarter, Not Harder
I set my priorities for the day early in the morning so I can tackle the most important things as I get into the office. I have learned to make that list as short as possible so the chances of actually finishing those tasks is really high. Trying to do too much makes me too scattered to get anything done.
I also pick my battles. You don’t have to win all arguments or engage in conflicts as they come up in operating your business. Sometimes it takes more effort and resources to fight something than it is worth, so letting things go is positive in those instances.
Dr. Lisa Cassileth, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Founder Cassileth Plastic Surgery and Skin Care
Parsing Bad Advice
Whenever a man says, ‘this is what I would tell my daughter,’ or ‘this is just too hard for a woman,’ then you know you are on the right track… do the opposite of what he says. When I was deciding on Beverly Hills as my practice locale, I was told all those things and more. ‘There’s a reason, Lisa, why there are no women here. It’s just way too competitive.’ The question is, competitive for whom? I came into town and got busy fast.
Being Your Own Hype Woman
Many female surgeons just don’t come out of the gate believing in themselves and they aren’t aggressive enough. Meanwhile, a not very successful male grad a few years back declared himself “the best butt surgeon in the world” and was busy in a month. Sometimes, you talk the talk before you walk the walk, and that’s harder for women to do, as I find they are more humble and self-deprecating.
Matching With a Mentee
I think the main reason people fail is that they need to keep the end goal in mind at all times. The end goal is about your own success and fulfillment and the gratitude that comes with it. On a daily basis, drama will try to pull you from your vision. So when I work with a mentee, I like people that have a strong vision for themselves, and can be turned back to the path with my support. If they are caught up in drama easily, are insecure, doubt themselves, or worst, undermine themselves and me with jealously and paranoia, then I’m not able to truly help them.
Belinda Smith, Founder and Creative Director, St. Rose Artisan Fragrances
A decade ago at the beginning of my career as a post-grad in the fashion industry, I would have quoted; “females in a male-dominated field often have to be twice as good as the men to be considered equal. Consider it motivation.” However, thankfully in the last ten years, I think we’ve come a long way. There is definitely a lot of progress to go but I think we are in the midst of not just a gender revolution but a diversity revolution.
I love a conversation I overheard at a coffee shop where two college kids were arguing over whether you should put ‘girl’ in front of ‘boss’. The conversation was basically like, drop the label, just be a boss. So that’s my advice: be a boss.
Charlotte Cho, Esthetician and Co-Founder, Soko Glam and Then I Met You
Becoming an Expert
Put in the time and effort to become the subject matter expert. Sometimes I believe we falsely think that success happens overnight and without much preparation. I started Soko Glam in 2012 without any previous experience in ecommerce, beauty and skin care. It was completely fueled by my passion and desire to learn as much as I can. While starting Soko Glam, I attended esthetician school at night for a year. This not only helped me be a better curator, but a better skin expert and it also helped me write my book to share my tips with the world!
When it came to business and there was something I wasn’t sure about, I reached out to my network and tried to ask as many questions and asked for help. When I launched Then I Met You in 2018, I didn’t rush into it. I experienced several product collaborations with our top brands (Neogen, Cosrx, etc) before diving into product formulation for Then I Met You. It’s only been a year and a half since I launched my own line, but we’ve already won seven industry awards. That couldn’t have happened without some sweat and tears behind it.
Getting and Giving Help
I think there’s an element of vulnerability in asking for help and sharing what your struggles are. I also try to be as helpful as possible in return. Kindness goes a long way, no matter what industry you are in.