SKIN DEEP

SHE MAY RUN A BIL­LION-DOL­LAR FAM­ILY BUSI­NESS, BUT CLINIQUE PRES­I­DENT AND COSMETICS HEIRESS JANE LAUDER IS ALL ABOUT SPREAD­ING THE PRO­FES­SIONAL WEALTH

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Stellar - - Con­tents - Words by ALICE WASLEY

Jane Lauder com­bines beauty with brain­power.

There are a few rites of pas­sage com­mon to most Aus­tralian women. One is the mor­ti­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing your first bra fit­ted by a prod­ding, no-non­sense, tape-mea­sure wield­ing sales­woman as your mum looks on. The other is that first dreaded acne flare-up, when you re­alise a beauty rou­tine can con­sist of more than just a quick scrub of the face with soap and wa­ter.

For Jane Lauder, the lat­ter is­sue hit very close to home. The bil­lion­aire scion is the grand­daugh­ter of cosmetics queen Estée Lauder, and her father, Ronald, was the head of Clinique when she turned to his com­pany’s prod­ucts for skin sal­va­tion. “I first started us­ing Clinique when I was 11,” she tells Stel­lar. “I re­mem­ber [my dad] bring­ing me home the 3-Step Sys­tem kit in the lit­tle bag and ev­ery­thing. I started us­ing it then, and I’ve been us­ing it ever since.”

Old habits don’t just die hard for Lauder, either; the brand’s Dra­mat­i­cally Dif­fer­ent Mois­tur­iz­ing Lo­tion, which rep­re­sents that third “step” (af­ter cleans­ing and ex­fo­li­at­ing), is now the top-selling mois­tur­is­ing prod­uct in Aus­tralian depart­ment stores.

And the re­al­ity of her day job means Lauder is charged with keep­ing it that way. The 43-year-old is on a path­way forged by her vi­sion­ary grand­mother, who built the com­pany from noth­ing. Estée’s in­ter­est in beauty was sparked by an un­cle

from Hun­gary, who con­cocted skin creams in their kitchen dur­ing his vis­its. Estée launched her name­sake busi­ness in Man­hat­tan in 1946 with four skin­care prod­ucts; to­day the com­pany’s nu­mer­ous brands boast an­nual sales of around $14.6 bil­lion.

At a time when women hold only 6.4 per cent of CEO po­si­tions at For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, Estée Lauder Com­pa­nies is a trail­blazer. Women rep­re­sent the ma­jor­ity of its global work­force and more than half of its se­nior lead­er­ship po­si­tions, a re­flec­tion of what Lauder’s grand­mother wrote in her book Estée: A Suc­cess Story: “It seemed ob­vi­ous that I should use my wom­an­ness as an as­set rather than a li­a­bil­ity.”

Does Lauder think much about her motto as she goes about con­duct­ing her ev­ery­day busi­ness? “Luck­ily I’m in an in­dus­try that is very fo­cused on women and what women want,” she says, “so you do have a leg up over the men some­times!”

The topic of women in lead­er­ship, and the road­blocks they face, reached fever pitch af­ter Hil­lary Clin­ton lost the US elec­tion. Last month, Clin­ton told New York mag­a­zine “the more suc­cess­ful a man is, the more lik­able he is. The more suc­cess­ful a woman is, the less lik­able she is. It’s across ev­ery sec­tor of so­ci­ety.”

Asked to pon­der the is­sue, Lauder pauses. “That is so hard. There’s still a dou­ble stan­dard between men and women in the work­force; I’m lucky enough to be in a com­pany that is pre­dom­i­nantly women, and founded by a woman – hope­fully we have a dif­fer­ent type of dy­namic.”

When it comes to be­ing the boss, Lauder’s ap­proach is to gather a lot of in­for­ma­tion and lis­ten to her team mem­bers’ opin­ions be­fore mak­ing her fi­nal de­ci­sion. Egal­i­tar­ian, yes – but Lauder notes ful­fill­ing her role is not with­out its dif­fi­cul­ties. “Part of the chal­lenge of be­ing a suc­cess­ful woman is also be­ing able to let peo­ple see your au­then­tic per­son­al­ity. And sadly I’m not sure we see much of that when we see our fe­male lead­ers – be­cause they feel so much pres­sure.”

Even at the helm of a fe­male-friendly com­pany, Lauder, who has two chil­dren, some­times finds her­self strug­gling to find bal­ance. She re­calls sit­ting next to a beauty ex­ec­u­tive at a con­fer­ence and dis­cov­er­ing she had four chil­dren. “I was sit­ting there think­ing, ‘How does she do that?!’ And she said, ‘ You know what? My hus­band stays home and takes care of the kids.’ That was so won­der­fully re­fresh­ing. Women think there’s only one way for this all to work, and I think it’s about find­ing that great fam­ily dy­namic – shift­ing and shar­ing the load.”

If you are think­ing that you might not be in­clined to work as hard as Lauder if you were a bil­lion­aire, the trust fund-baby life­style was never even an op­tion. Though many mem­bers of her ex­tended fam­ily hold po­si­tions in the com­pany, Estée in­sisted on in­still­ing a strong work ethic in her chil­dren which they, in turn, have passed on.

“I’m not sure if it’s something you learn,” Lauder says, “or if it’s na­ture ver­sus nur­ture. But when you have role mod­els around that are al­ways driven and fo­cused on achiev­ing things…” She pauses to re­flect. “It doesn’t even have to be about busi­ness – some of my fam­ily mem­bers are so in­cred­i­ble with their phi­lan­thropy and how they give back.”

Adds Lauder, “My grand­mother def­i­nitely taught me to never take no for an an­swer, which is a mantra that I live by, and is prob­a­bly su­per-an­noy­ing to many peo­ple. But it’s true – there is al­ways a way for­ward.”

In­deed, her sis­ter Aerin has de­scribed her as very “strong-willed”, much like their grand­mother. Lauder laughs: “I think she’s prob­a­bly say­ing that in a nice way. My mother says stub­born.”

Lo­cally, Lauder and the Clinique Dif­fer­ence Ini­tia­tive are bring­ing a can-do at­ti­tude to their part­ner­ship with The Smith Fam­ily. To­gether, they sup­port Fit­ted for Work, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that helps dis­ad­van­taged women strengthen their skills and con­fi­dence to gain mean­ing­ful em­ploy­ment. “I think what the team here has been able to do with The Smith Fam­ily, to em­power young women and teach them and give them ed­u­ca­tion, is so im­por­tant,” she says.

Ear­lier this month, a group of Year 10 stu­dents from Auburn Girls High School in Syd­ney vis­ited Clinique’s lo­cal head­quar­ters for an in­au­gu­ral Work In­spi­ra­tion Ses­sion, where they ex­plored ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties and mounted their own mar­ket­ing brief and cam­paign.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager An­gela Raso tells Stel­lar that the stu­dents were “at­ten­tive, re­spect­ful and had a will­ing­ness to learn”. In turn, she was show­ered with con­fir­ma­tion that the ex­er­cise had not gone to waste. The stu­dents said they were re­think­ing pre­vi­ous ca­reer choices, no longer saw busi­ness roles as “bor­ing” and had re­alised that there were new pos­si­bil­i­ties for them­selves.

None of this is lost on Lauder, who de­spite grow­ing up in the busi­ness – her father held the po­si­tion that she is in to­day – still ad­mits that “I don’t know if I ever thought I would be the pres­i­dent of Clinique. But now I’m here, I can en­joy it.” She just re­mains wist­ful about one missed op­por­tu­nity.

“I wish I had been old enough to have worked side by side with [my grand­mother],” she says. “I never got to work with her on the prod­uct. And that would have been re­ally fun.”

“MY GRAND­MOTHER DEF­I­NITELY TAUGHT ME TO NEVER TAKE NO FOR AN AN­SWER, WHICH IS A MANTRA THAT I LIVE BY”

BEAUTY QUEEN Jane Lauder is proud to fol­low in her grand­mother’s foot­steps; (right) Estée Lauder ap­plies make-up to a cus­tomer in 1966; (op­po­site, from left) Jane with her sis­ter Aerin; the Lauder fam­ily in the ’70s.

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