It’s been fifteen years since L’Oréal Paris launched its annual Women of Worth awards, celebrating strong women, who are committed to making changes and improving the quality of lives for their communities. This year the awards are particularly relevant as the world grapples with the ongoing impact of Covid-19, which has exacerbated inequalities impacting fundamental needs in terms of health, access to food, education provision. The effect on communities, families, and individuals is evident through the increased cases of isolation, mental health cases. The prolonged period of uncertainty focuses us away from returning to life as normal or business as usual towards a greater emphasis on what needs to be different to change the way we work, live, and make decisions?
This time more than ever calls for individuals who see the world differently and are not happy to settle with the status quo who see problems and solutions that can make an impact. Among the Covid-19 headlines, the work of individuals in their communities needs greater amplification to demonstrate what is achievable under challenging circumstances. In my conversation with L’Oréal Paris President, Ali Goldstein, we discuss why these awards are more relevant today than ever and her perspectives on women in leadership. Goldstein celebrates these individuals who are unable to accept the status quo, “They take creative actions to solve social problems and pave a way forward for the next generation. Our Women of Worth do this every day as they find new ways to evolve and impact their communities.”
‘How to Get With Murder’ actress Aja Naomi King, a supporter of the program, explains why the L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth program is essential for these catalysts, “self-worth means having the courage to carry on, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. A woman who knows her self-worth can change the world.
Goldstein recognizes the challenges many of these women face, limited resources from financial to human resources, and broader support are more apparent in the current situation. However L’Oréal Paris is evident in its commitment to continue to promote and encourage community-based projects that are serving the most vulnerable groups in society, Goldstein describes how the global pandemic helps to recognize the importance of women across all levels of society. Goldstein says, “What we see now more than ever is that in so many ways, women have always been on the front lines in our society when it comes to helping others, giving back, and in critical roles like teachers and nurses. Programs like Women of Worth must exist to elevate and showcase the brave work of these everyday heroes.”
In her reflections on the last fifteen years, Goldstein sees common traits among the Women of Worth nominees and winners; “Often, these women have overcome extreme personal adversity and channeled that trauma into the opportunity to give back and do good in the world. The traits I see the most as we hear their stories year after year are determination, resilience, empathy, and the amazing ability to take a personal tragedy or trauma and turn it into good in the world. For example, a mother launching a music camp for special needs children after the tragic death of her son. Or a woman with Down syndrome who gives hope and happiness to families of babies born with Down syndrome. These women draw from their own experiences and take action on behalf of those in need. They play pivotal roles during critical moments in life, collectively ensuring a better and more worthy future for us all.”
The catalyst of these personal experiences combined with the desire to improve conditions in their communities create the platform for women to take on the role of change agents and leaders; “as leaders, women naturally lead with emotional insight and intelligence. I think when they balance this with functional leadership and management skills, it creates a powerful and unique combination for effective leadership. We see this all the time with our most successful Women of Worth – their desire to create change is often rooted in emotion, caring, and love. But they succeed when they learn how to build their love for a given cause into a functional goal-orientated organization that can drive substantial and long-lasting change.”
Purpose-based leadership is not limited to entrepreneurial or socially driven causes. It is increasingly becoming a core conversation in the range of companies I work with on leadership development. Still, the spark of activity emerges from the projects highlighted through the awards initiative. The range of projects celebrated by the Women of Worth Awards provide opportunities to showcase grass-roots work that starts in a small way and grows to achieve significant impact. Brittany Schiavone created a community project called Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, which led to being acknowledged as an Honoree in the 2019 awards. The service provides support and guidance to families with babies who have Downs syndrome. Since its launch in 2016, the project has reached a thousand babies in fifty states.
Schiavone, who herself has Downs Syndrome, credits her confidence and self-esteem with the Women on Worth campaign’s recognition. The platform provides the opportunity to inspire other women. Schiavone shares her views, “My advice to others who wish to start a non-profit corporation would be to surround yourself with smart, knowledgeable people who understand you and can help you reach your goal.
When I came home and told my family I wanted to help babies with Downs syndrome, I had no clue how to do that. My family and friends came together with me, and we figured it out based on each of our strengths.” The power of a strong network is a resource Goldstein also identifies as critical in supporting women who aspire to step into leadership roles; “I’d firstly tell young women that they really can do it. For me, the way to doing it all has an incredible support network, so I always stress how important that is. I’d also say that having a vision is important. You have to know yourself and figure out what you want to really go for it. And lastly, it’s important to build strong relationships both inside and outside of your networks. In the end, it’s the people around you that help you to do it all.”
What are the other vital insights Goldstein shares from her leadership journey to inspire women?
Put the consumer at the center of your thinking and listen.
“When setting up a new program, I first envision the consumer and go through the facts in the marketplace before beginning to brainstorm. As a marketer, I believe that my consumer will always tell me what she needs and wants, and I ensure all my teams and projects start with consumer insights first.” Goldstein goes on to state, drawing on insights from consumers means taking a broad approach; “I believe there is much to learn about modern marketing simply by listening to everyone around you. Everyone is our consumer, so they all have something to teach us – even my kids, who are teaching me TikTok right now.”
Originally posted on Forbes