Why does fashion and beauty continue to be run by men?
DEIDiversityConsumerBoard and CEO AdvisoryHuman ResourcesDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
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October 28, 2020
DEIDiversityConsumerBoard and CEO AdvisoryHuman ResourcesDiversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory
The appointment of a CEO is a long and complicated process.
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Les Echos Start

The Les Echos Start article, “Why does fashion and beauty continue to be run by men?” quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Florence Ferraton on factors that contribute to the lack of women at the head of large fashion and beauty companies. The article is excerpted below. 

What do Nocibé, Sephora, Christian Dior Couture, Gucci, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Kering Eyewear, Givenchy, Estée Lauder France, Zara, Uniqlo, Fendi, Burberry, D & G, Ralph Lauren, Armani, Cartier, Chopard have in common? All of these brands are run by men.  

Men at the head of big companies – the answer of a well-informed reader would be: “There is nothing new under the sun.” Since it all comes down to readers, I must share with you a comment from another reader (a very real one). On the occasion of an article published by Echos START with regard to the lack of parity in the professional world, the reader in question urged us, as journalists, to look into the following phenomenon: Why are most (though not all!) fashion, luxury, beauty companies (which mainly target a female clientele and often employ a majority of women) managed by men? To meet this challenge, we decided to look into the matter. 

The appointment of a CEO is a long and complicated process 

We wanted to further our research and go into the details of the CEO appointment process in order to understand where the concrete blockages were to be found. To do this, we turned our attention to the most famous headhunters in the capital, those whose services are called on when a large company is looking for a new boss. Florence Ferraton is one of them. From the outset, the general manager of Russell Reynolds Paris warns us about a characteristic that may be ignored by the general public: The successions of CEOs are an extremely cumbersome and detailed process, which sometimes starts two years prior to the official announcement. 

Fewer female bosses selected from among the internal staff 

So why are there still so few female CEOs? Beyond the fact that it is necessary to give time to these newly feminized Boards of Directors to influence the gender of the new bosses, the problem of the lack of female bosses is rooted in the composition of the Executive Committees. They are the famous Comex, which bring together the entire team of directors. “These are the bodies that supply the succession plans for company directors,” explains Florence Ferraton. We look into the Comex pool to find the name of the future CEO. 

However, therein lies the problem. According to a study performed by PwC, female CEOs (25%) emerge more frequently from outside than from inside the company, while male bosses (52%) are more generally promoted from within the company itself. In other words, it is difficult to create leadership careers for women. To remedy this situation, for several years now, some have been advancing the idea of establishing quotas for women in the Comex. 

Do not confuse “diversity” with “inclusion” 

Among the reasons for this lack of women in the Executive Committee: international experiences, which are assigned high value when choosing the profile of a superboss. “The problem of international mobility arises for women at a time when it can be a career accelerator for men,” explains Florence Ferraton. “Calling this consideration into question is one of the levers for the feminization of the Comex. An internal career plan should be developed that would fit the lives of all employees.” 

Towards a less charismatic leader profile 

For Florence Ferraton, of Russell Reynolds Paris, who analyzes the new profiles of leaders, French companies are moving away from the vision of the great charismatic, vertical leader, who is as inspiring as he is overwhelming. “The new generation of leaders has a taste for risk and at the same time a balanced vision, a leadership that is more inclusive, less hierarchical and more collaborative. Qualities which are all found in female profiles,” this headhunter assures us. “Also, clients are asking me more and more to look for women in order to enrich their executive committees and feed their succession plans.” 

Among the notable changes in the fashion sector, we can cite the Guerlain company which, since 2019, has been led by Véronique Courtois. There is also Delphine Arnault, youngest member and the first woman to join the Board of Directors of the LVMH group (owner of Les Echos) and executive vice-president of Louis Vuitton, Francesca Bellettini at the head of Yves Saint Laurent, Séverine Merle appointed CEO of Céline, or Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first woman to be appointed artistic director of Christian Dior. 

To read the full article, click here​.