Diversity That’s More Than Just Skin Deep

Since being named senior vice president of diversity and inclusion for L’Oreal USA at the beginning of the year, Angela Guy has worked to put in place a strategic plan for diversity that’s tied directly to HR as well as business leadership, supplier diversity and marketing communications. But this isn’t the first time Guy has come in contact with D&I issues. She’s been a champion since college when she supported black student engagement at Penn State. Guy explains that in a looks-based industry, beauty really comes from embracing a diversity of ideas, beliefs and values.

How did you become involved with the field of diversity and inclusion?
I have been an advocate of diversity initiatives since college supporting black student engagement at Penn State University, and as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women and the NAACP while supporting a host of other organizations and programs focused on equality and social inclusion.

As senior vice president of diversity and inclusion at L’Oreal, you’re responsible for increasing diversity on the human resources and partnership level. How have you worked to increase diversity at L’Or?al?
My primary objective has been to build on the success that the company has had over the previous 10 years. That was no small feat. Our CEO Frederic Roze gave me an open door to create the vision for the future. Coming from the business, we developed a strategic plan that focused on HR, but also incorporated our marketing communication, supplier diversity and business leadership. We trained and gained agreement from the executive committee on what diversity and inclusion means at L’Oreal, and then worked closely with the business units to understand and support their specific diversity and inclusion needs.

L’Or?al is a worldwide leader in the beauty industry. What kinds of impacts, if any, does a looks-based industry have on diversity and inclusion?
At L’Oreal, we are on a mission to inspire beauty for all. We are motivated by the diversity of people around the world and all of the cultures, beliefs and norms that make them unique. We see their differences as assets and leverage their insights to bring them products to best meet their needs. We support the communities that we serve through a host of worldwide and domestic-based initiatives, we embrace supplier diversity and work daily to build the standard in making beauty inclusive for all.

From your perspective can looks — say the way someone dresses or wears their hair — affect their career trajectory in corporate America?
I can’t speak for all of corporate America, but my personal belief is that the beauty of an individual starts on the inside. How they view and present themselves, their confidence, creativity, communication, collaboration, experience and passion coupled with the investment they make in their own career development are what ultimately influences their career growth.

Diversity and inclusion is often maligned as merely “skin deep.” Maybe it’s meeting a hiring quota or having a diversity-related workshop. How do you ensure that diversity and inclusion practices at L’Oreal are more dynamic?
We make D&I dynamic at L’Oreal by engaging the people. We have employees who love to get involved in support of D&I initiatives. We ask their opinions and they participate in surveys, community activities, roundtable discussions, videos, blogs and tweets. It is encouraging and motivating to see the team engagement. Each of us has our own unique dimensions that make us who we are. The more we recognize and embrace the differences that we individually contribute, the more we can celebrate and integrate the value in others.

Jeffrey Cattel is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. He can be reached at editor@diversity-executive.com.