Sephora spent the past two years quietly boosting its diverse representation in leadership

December 1, 2022, 12:47 PM UTC
Exterior of Sephora retail store
People of color account for 45% of employees at the manager level and above at Sephora.

Good morning! 

I comb through many DEI and corporate social responsibility reports, and I recently came across some leadership representation numbers that made me do a double take. Sephora increased the number of Black and Hispanic employees in leadership positions by 8% and 16%, respectively, in the past year. That’s a difficult feat in an organization’s upper echelons, a rank harder to diversify than entry-level and even more senior rank-and-file roles.

George-Axelle Broussillon Matschinga, VP of diversity, equity, and inclusion for Sephora USA, attributes the beauty retailer’s progress to two symbiotic strategies she put into play: inclusive hiring and internal talent development.

Sephora already has a reasonably diverse workforce, assisted by its retail crew, a group that typically skews more diverse than corporate offices across industries. In 2020, 64% of all employees, including retail employees, identified as people of color, and that number increased to 70% in 2022. But two years ago, the company embarked on a quest to grow representation among leadership.

“We focused our efforts not only on diverse hiring but also on equitable advancements via training programs, development programs, and mentoring,” Broussillon Matschinga says.

Broussillon Matschinga kicked off phase one of her plan by creating and distributing a diverse hiring toolkit to recruiters and hiring managers. “We needed to raise awareness on how unconscious biases manifest in the hiring process,” she says.

Next was diversifying interview panels and creating DEI goals for all leaders and those looking to progress up the leadership chain. Sephora’s executive team, trickling down to managers, now have D&I targets tied to their bonus or merit increase.

“We [view] our diversity efforts as a key business driver,” Broussillon Matschinga says.

As for internal development, Sephora created a talent incubator program for the next generation of underrepresented leaders. Broussillon Matschinga describes the program as a blend of mentoring and coaching, noting that over 50% of the 100 participants in the program’s first phase have already received promotions.

The work has proven out in Sephora’s representation numbers, propelling the beauty company ahead of its competitors. People of color accounted for 45% of employees at the manager level and above at Sephora in 2022, compared to 39% in 2020. At the VP level and above, people of color accounted for 36%, compared to 28% in 2020. Women now make up 75% of leadership—unchanged since 2020. In comparison, 25% of Ulta Beauty employees at the director level and above identified as people of color in 2021, and just 23% of Target’s leadership team that same year. 

“If we just focus on recruiting talent and don’t do anything to create an inclusive culture…it becomes a revolving door,” says Broussillon Matschinga. “We don’t want a revolving door.”

Amber Burton

Reporter's Notebook

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“One thing that's definitely informing our strategy is thinking differently about skills and tapping into what we view as more of a ‘total workforce.’ We're going to think holistically about the skills required for our business's future and then start to build talent pools that [encompass] internal, external, gig, and contract workers because we can’t be one-size-fits-all. We’d lose our ability to be agile.”

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