Student Advances DEI Initiatives in the Beauty Industry.
Student Advances DEI Initiatives in the Beauty Industry
MPH student Georgia Aguilar spent the summer working as the diversity, equity, and inclusion intern on Sephora’s Social Impact Team, where she worked to advance diversity initiatives and equity solutions within the global beauty company.
It is always special when career opportunities arise that seamlessly merge your personal and professional interests. When one such opportunity came up for second-year MPH student Georgia Aguilar, she jumped at the chance to combine her social justice and public health work with her long-time interest in fashion and beauty.
Aguilar, who is studying health policy and law with a context certificate in human rights and social justice at the School of Public Health, spent the summer working on Sephora’s Social Impact Team for her practicum experience. She served as the diversity, equity, and inclusion intern for the global beauty company, analyzing data and analytics to advance diversity initiatives and equity solutions, as well as to determine how their products and regulations affect equity and health, more broadly.
“When we think about public health, we so often think about infectious diseases or the CDC, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But public health is everywhere,” says Aguilar. “It is in every corner of our lives, and this practicum really gave me the opportunity to gain insight into how public health can apply beyond a clinical or research setting to generate change in a more non-traditional area within the field.”
As a majority woman-run company, Sephora has been leading efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the beauty industry, which, as a whole, has long been criticized for its inequity and distinct lack of representation. As one of the first global beauty companies to institute DEI initiatives into their business model, Aguilar says that she was excited to work with Sephora because their values and goals align so closely with her own.
Throughout her internship, Aguilar worked on a number of projects, largely around Sephora’s employee resource groups. These groups highlight the diverse identities within the company and work to create supportive internal community networks, as well as serve as thought partners in various business decisions. Much of Aguilar’s work with these groups was dedicated to managing and supporting their equity initiatives, event planning, and advocacy efforts around various causes, as well as collaborating with group members to expand Sephora’s DEI commitment both internally and externally. She also worked on a project to establish additional employee resource groups within the company’s portfolio.
Aguilar also conducted several impact evaluation analyses to better understand how different practices within the company have inequitably impacted marginalized groups. She then translated the data she collected into easily-digestible charts and fact sheets to highlight the company’s social responsibility to prioritize DEI initiatives in their retail business model. These graphics were then presented to Sephora’s leadership by members of the Social Impact Team.
“This internship really opened my eyes to the long history of marginalization within the personal care product industry and just how much needs to be done to create positive change in this space,” says Aguilar, recognizing that change is taking place, albeit slowly. “With platforms like TikTok and Instagram, we see that consumers of beauty products are more diverse than ever, representing the LGBTQIA+ community and other gender and racial minorities, but there is still such a lack of representation within companies themselves. We have to uplift these diverse voices and bring them into the conversation to truly diversify the beauty industry, make it safe, ensure it is sustainable, and contribute to a better future.”
Aguilar will graduate from SPH in January 2023, and hopes to continue working at the intersection of public health, policy, and beauty in the future. She says that her internship gave her the confidence she needed to combine her education and public health experiences with her personal interests in beauty in meaningful ways for population health.
“My practicum experience is evidence that you don’t have to go the traditional route in public health to make a change,” she says. “I am incredibly grateful for my experience at Sephora, and I hope that other students looking for practicums or internships are encouraged to apply their public health interests to their own unique passions in ways that are meaningful for them.”
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