Sephora CMO discusses diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives

  • Sephora has prioritized DCI’s efforts, including a brand incubator focused on minorities.
  • Its chief marketing officer, Deborah Yeh, has taken the lead in many of these efforts.
  • Yeh discussed DCI’s business case, how being a color manager informs her work, and more.
  • Visit the Insider’s Transforming Business homepage for more stories

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Sephora has taken steps to promote diversity, equity and inclusion at the cosmetics retailer. Its chief marketing officer, Deborah Yeh, has been a major driver of these initiatives and was recently named one of Insider’s 100 people transforming the company for this job.

She spoke to Insider about DCI’s business case, her accidental path to marketing, how being a person of color informs her work, and the trends she envisions. Our interview has been edited for clarity.

What will be the biggest shopping trend in 2022?

More and more people are looking to buy based on their values ​​rather than mere functionality; and personalization. We recently updated our Color IQ technology, which helps people find makeup based on their skin tone and takes into account how depth, undertone and saturation go into skin tone.

Why is DEI so important to Sephora?

Many consumers experience moments of racial prejudice when shopping, and most of these incidents go unreported. There are people who will abandon your brand if you are not inclusive. It’s a huge business opportunity.

What are your main DCI initiatives?

We have made a 15% commitment to expand our assortments. But we also need to put programs and other initiatives around this. So, in our latest Brand Incubator course, Color Founders not only got on a program and got mentorship from established Color Brand Founders, but a handful of them even made it to the market at Sephora.

How do these initiatives translate into your stores?

We’re increasing the diversity of hires to ensure store demographics reflect the community. We’ve made great strides in store directions over the past year – it’s gone from 6% of African American store managers to 9%. The other element is training and development. We have launched a systematic program to do everything from talking about what it means to be inclusive leaders, to explicitly fighting racism, to cultural alliance and the technical skills needed to match someone’s skin tone. ‘one and serve her hair. texture.

What about where you advertise?

Much of our presence is on social media, and a lot of the money goes straight to content creators. A good example here is the Sephora Squad program, where we explicitly select various creators and voices. Seventy-nine percent of our 2021 team identify as POC. Our intention is to think about where our business is located, and our commitments reflect that.

How does being a person of color teach you professionally?

I’ve embarked on my own personal journey over the past couple of years in terms of integrating my identity into the workplace – about how that can be a benefit and something that should be celebrated and not put aside. I know what it’s like to not necessarily be seen in a managerial environment. I know what it feels like to walk into a store and not feel like you are being seen. It is difficult to remove the staff from the professional when it comes to these issues. It’s part of what I bring to the conversation. It motivates me to do more.

What is the most important skill you learned in your career and how did you learn it?

An organizational expert once pointed out that I probably revolve around a certain type of person, coming out of an east coast university. But how do you learn to sell to everyone? It was one of the best things anyone could have said to me at the start of my career. It taught me to be a better cross-functional partner, a better vertical collaborator, and to speak at all levels of an organization. It is a skill that I am constantly improving.

If you had to counsel your young self, what would you tell him to do more and what would you tell him to stop doing?

I got into marketing by accident. When I got my first job out of college, I thought I was going to go back to academia. But following my curiosity ended up being the best way for me to find a career. So I would say: think less of life as a linear path. On the other hand, I would rethink what success means. I found a letter my father wrote to me in college that had a line that said, “I’m sure you’ll get into a good medical school.” While that was my aspiration at the time, I finally found an impact by contributing to society in a different way.


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