LONDON — Women in business, technology, health and media all gathered at Winfield House, the official residence of Jane D. Hartley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., to celebrate women’s history month.
The event was the first partnership between Estée Lauder Cos. U.K. and Ireland and the U.S. embassy meant to amplify women’s voices.
The American multinational cosmetics company announced that it will extend its commitment to women’s social impact programs in the U.K. for three more years by funding existing initiatives.
These include Young Women’s Trust Work It Out coaching service, which helps women from the ages of 18 to 30 step onto the career ladder; The Prince’s Trust’s Women Supporting Women Programme that supports women in gaining qualifications; hygiene poverty social impact organization Beauty Banks, which provides self care products to women and families, and The National Literacy Trust’s Words for Work: Dream Big Programme, which educates children from the ages of five to seven about career stereotypes.
“During the year of 2020, what we did was we wanted to create very quickly an inclusive environment for everybody to feel a part of as they were all sitting at home, you’re working and still contributing in a really major way to the success of the company,” said Sue Fox, president of the Estée Lauder Cos. U.K. and Ireland.
Fox joined the U.K. and Ireland vision a few weeks before the pandemic broke off and it inspired her to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” a mantra that she has taken company-wide when it comes to social issues across the Estée Lauder Cos.
“During that time, it became really apparent that we needed to do a lot more in terms of inclusion, diversity and equity as part of our very key strategy for the company,” said Fox, who held internal conversations with employees before opening up to bring in key external figures.
The first was British television presenter June Sarpong.
“I talked to her about the racism that she’d experienced herself and that was really the start of it, and how to have a very open conversation not only with our guests, but also within our organization here in the U.K. and Ireland,” added Fox, who has been with the company for more than 26 years, holding positions such as general manager of Japan and managing director of South Africa.
During the pandemic, the business introduced an employee resource group on mental health and wellness, which has become the company’s biggest employee resource group. It has welcomed a menopause support service, a program on accessibility for store and office employees, a campaign to raise awareness around breast cancer in the Black and south Asian communities, as well as prostate cancer campaign for male employees.
“I’ve always felt private sector companies have a responsibility to their communities and to their customers,” said Hartley, who has served as the ambassador to the U.S. for France and Monaco.
“I’ve always believed that we should be thinking more about public private partnerships. I advocated for that when I was in France and at the end of my term I set up Jobs For All, working with private sector companies to provide training and apprenticeships in some of the underserved areas outside of Paris,” Hartley added.
Since taking her residency at the end of May last year at Winfield House, the ambassador has had three prime ministers and two monarchs.
“We talk back home about the special relationship and until you’re really here, you don’t really understand, but it truly is unlike any other relationship we have in the world. There’s so much trust and history here,” Hartley said.
“The institutions are so strong and tied together, that I don’t think we’ve missed a beat. Right now, that’s particularly important because we really are partners and doing so much together, whether it be intelligence sharing or military cooperation in terms of Ukraine,” she added.
Hartley’s goal is to change the wider culture in which women are involved in. She’s the second female ambassador to the U.K.
“When I came into this embassy and looked at the wall where all the names are engraved of former ambassadors, you could walk down that long hall and only see one woman, which was almost 50 years ago and now I’m the second, and in France it was the same,” she said.
“I feel a great responsibility to make sure that I look at inequality and diversity to make sure we are putting our best foot forward, but also to make sure that after me, that will not be the case. We can’t wait another 50 years for another female ambassador,” she added.
When it comes to the fashion and beauty industry, the ambassador firmly states that nobody should forget what “an economic engine they are for many countries.”
“Fashion and beauty are very important when it comes to standing for things. That’s why I think Estée Lauder Cos. is so great and Stella McCartney for what she does with sustainable fashion,” said Hartley, whose daughter, Kate Schlosstein, is vice president of marketing and communications at Loro Piana.
“She’s a businesswoman and I’m very proud of her. She’s very involved in politics. These companies are critical because they represent half of the world population, which is women, and we will have a stronger voice on all these issues in the next generation and the generation after that,” the ambassador added.