In this week’s “Women In Charge” series, Alex Keith chats with Mika Brzezinski about her career path, leading during a pandemic, how companies can retain diverse talent and more.
Source: NBC News – Even though the beauty industry caters almost exclusively to women, the number of women CEOs at big beauty companies is alarmingly small. In fact, there is only one female CEO of a top-10 beauty company: Procter and Gamble’s Alex Keith.
Keith’s rise to the top wasn’t linear. She graduated from college with a chemical engineering degree and started her career with P&G at a manufacturing plant in Philadelphia.
Flash forward to today and she is now CEO of the company’s beauty business, leading a $13.4 billion portfolio of brands including Head & Shoulders, Pantene, Olay, SK-II, Secret, Old Spice and more. Keith, who lives in Geneva, Switzerland, leads a team of over 10,000 employees, guiding them daily on brand strategy, innovation and go-to-market efforts.
She recently chatted with Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski about her non-conventional career path, leading during a pandemic, how companies can retain diverse talent and more.
Below is their conversation, which has been edited for brevity and clarity:
Mika Brzezinski: You’re the only female CEO of a top-10 beauty company. It shows that women face barriers every step of the way to get to the very, very top. How much self advocating did you do in your beginning years at P&G? You were able to move up, be retained and move up to such a high level. How dit it happen ?
Alex Keith: I did start in a manufacturing plant, so I have a chemical engineering degree, so I was far from where I’ve ended up. I graduated with a chemical engineering degree and was hired by Proctor & Gamble’s [product supply organization.]. But I was still inside a manufacturing facility.
And I think early on in my career, I was fortunate [to have] great mentorship. I always focused on, of course, doing whatever my defined job was with excellence, but also showing interest … outside my scope of responsibility that I think ultimately caught people’s attention. And they saw me as someone who was curious, who was ambitious to learn more, who wanted to contribute more than what my role might have been defined as.
I can [also] say that I had an amazing mentor who was a man. So, I don’t think this has to come down only to women mentoring… although I do think that there’s a big role for that. [He] helped me when I told him I was considering leaving Procter & Gamble to go to business school. He said, “why do you want to do that?” And I said, “I’d like to work in marketing.” And he said, “at Procter & Gamble?” And I said, “of course.” And he said, “well, let’s get you transferred to marketing.”