Sheri McCoy is the only woman leading a beauty company on the Fortune 500

Sheri McCoy is the only woman leading a beauty company on the Fortune 500

The business magazine has just put out the 2017 edition of its annual list of the most profitable corporations in the US. Among the several personal care and cosmetics companies on the list, only one is led by a CEO who is a woman. A fact that could be a indication of inequality throughout the industry.

Fortune and other news outlets have been highlighting this year’s uptick in the number on women CEOs on the full list of this country’s top companies.

“As of 2017, there are 32 female CEOs on the list, meaning that 6.4% of the U.S.'s biggest companies (by revenue) are run by women,” Fortune editors noted yesterday in an item listing only the women. “This is the highest proportion of female CEOs in the 63-year history of the Fortune 500.”

Sheri McCoy, CEO of Avon Products is number 27 on that list of 32 leaders. Currently on the Fortune 500, Avon Products ranks number 444. (New Avon, the US business, is now separate and distinct from Avon Products. New Avon has been a privately held company since March of last year, as Cosmetics Design reported.)

Other industry corporations that made the 500 this year include Johnson & Johnson (at number 35), Procter & Gamble (36), Colgate-Palmolive (182), Estée Lauder (253), and Clorox (453). Of course, several retailers, as well as specialty chemical suppliers and distributors figure on the list too.

Imbalance of power

Every beauty company has ready stats on the percentage of women working in their ranks and the number of women in leadership or executive roles. It’s even fashionable to feature women-facing charities as part of a company’s CSR initiatives and to glorify a piece of the supply chain that’s made possible by women farmers or processors.

Nonetheless, Sheri McCoy is the only woman leading a beauty company on the Fortune 500. And, “women still constitute only 6 percent of the CEOs on the list and there [are] no black female CEOs [leading Fortune 500 companies]” points out Emily Peck, in her HuffingtonPost article about the 2017 list.  And while in the beauty industry several leading company’s boards of directors are approaching gender balance, it was only a couple of months ago now that Cosmetics Design reported on Sabine Chalmers becoming the first woman to join Coty’s board

Workplace equality 

Despite the efforts of well-meaning HR teams, industry organizations, resolute individuals, and governmental encouragement, workplace equality doesn’t exist on any large scale. 

There were signs of progress in beauty late last year. By the end of 2016, six personal care and cosmetics companies had signed on to the Equal Pay Pledge. The pledge is just that, a promise made by the signing companies to make an effort towards compensating women and men equally for equally valuable work contributions. L’Oréal USA and Johnson & Johnson were the first two industry players to sign the pledge when President Barak Obama introduced it during The State of Women Summit in June of last year.

2016 data on employee perception of equal treatment at work, compiled by the site fairygodboss, reflect positively on the beauty industry too. When asked, yes or no, “Do you think men and women are treated fairly and equally at your employer?” 71% of women working in the cosmetics industry said, “yes,” as Cosmetics Design reported.

And an anecdote shared with fairygodboss by a project manager at Estée Lauder adds a bit of context: “The leadership is predominantly women; they understand very well women's needs and [are] also less likely to hold stereotypes against women.”

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