By Hillary Latos
As a woman in leadership, Sara Moss exemplifies the word “powerhouse.” Having an illustrious legal career as a federal prosecutor, partner at a law firm, and general counsel for publicly traded companies, it was only natural that she was tapped by Leonard Lauder as the General Counsel for The Estée Lauder Companies and was recently appointed as Vice Chairman. But Moss is more than just a business leader. She believes in paying it forward and is a staunch supporter of charitable causes close to home and is also heading up a women’s leadership network that supports, encourages and engages women at the company to reach their full potential to emerge as true leaders. Besides working with the Estée Lauder Companies’ Women’s Leadership Network Programs, she has spearheaded the Sara Moss Women’s Leadership Training Program at NYU Law School which is an intensive leadership development “boot camp” for women which helps participants to develop core leadership and professional skills to support their success. Here IWM caught up with Sara Moss at the New York Common Pantry Gala where she was receiving The Distinguished Partner Award.
How did you get involved with New York Common Pantry?
I’m friends with a former Chairman of the Board who asked me to come up to see what the Pantry was doing. I’ve been a financial supporter for a number of years and I was very impressed with their programs- giving bags of healthy food for those in need and treating all guests with dignity and respect. I was just moved by the fact that there were so many people who lived and worked near me who were hungry. Two of my sons had done community service at The Pantry when they were at Collegiate School, but I really became involved after I saw what they were doing.
What are some of their biggest challenges that The Pantry faces?
They face enormous challenges because the ‘food insecure’ population is growing and government subsidies are cut, while the scope of what The Pantry is doing is growing. It used to be called The Yorkville Pantry because it was serving that neighborhood, but then they grew to serve the entire city. During Hurricane Sandy the staff and volunteers went to Brooklyn and Staten Island with trucks of food. When the Federal Shutdown happened they allowed government employees to show their IDs and receive food. Sometimes people just need food for an interim period.
What do you feel is the new face of beauty today?
It’s multicultural and multigenerational. It is the consumer who wants what she wants, when she wants it and how she wants it. These are some of the challenges we face, and being locally and culturally relevant is really important. So meeting all of those needs is critical to be successful, and we’re doing all of that, it’s exciting and challenging.
How do you reach a global customer?
You have to be locally relevant, so we have to understand what women and men in each part of the world consider to be beautiful, and how they want to present themselves. But also you have to consider their skin issues and ages which is really interesting. You can’t really have culturally relevant products if you just create them in New York. We have creative and innovation teams not only in New York but in Asia and everywhere in the world. You have to combine the luxury that our brands present with culturally relevant products. Women count on that and the quality.
How do you connect with your customers?
When I first came to the company 16 years ago it was just Vogue. Now with social media it’s the consumers themselves, which is exciting and challenging. We connect with consumers online, through influencers, in stores, and through all sorts of media. We connect with them everywhere they shop. More young women now are looking for beauty that is customized to themselves and we have to meet those needs as well. Women of every age want good healthy skin.
What do you think is the white space in the beauty industry?
I see the men’s category as a white space. In many parts of the world, we are seeing men wearing makeup, such as foundation, as well as using more and more skin care products. There’s also a white space in technology and devices for beauty and skin care.
What is The Estée Lauder Companies doing to make an impactful difference?
What we want to do is not only meet the needs of the consumers but also be a good citizen wherever we live and work. Sustainability is very important to us and our consumers. This is a huge initiative at the company.
The Lauder family and the company are very philanthropic in relation
to art, breast cancer research, Alzheimer’s disease, The New York Common Pantry
and more. Beauty companies need to be
clear that we are good citizens as well.
When I went to Davos this year it was very much about sustainability and
the future of equality. Nearly half of
our board consists of women and I’m the first Vice Chairman of the company. Equality is very important and beauty
companies can take a stand
founder, Estée Lauder, set a high bar for women.
A big part of my role as Vice Chairman is promoting and expanding women’s leadership. Together with my colleagues, Group President Jane Hertzmark Hudis, and Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Tracey T. Travis, we already have a women’s leadership network around the world that is leading various initiative programs. For example, we have a sponsor ready program that is launching in March for Women’s History Month that will continue throughout the year.
Through the Estée Lauder Companies’ Women’s Leadership Network Programs, they have invited a number of powerful women in business to share their career advice with employees as part of our speaker series. Recently they launched a Sponsor Readiness Program designed to empower female participants at ELC for leadership opportunities through a formalized program with an assigned sponsor.