As the leader, acknowledge and build awareness around the many ways we have fallen short as a company and make the necessary changes to course correct, commit to your own edification and journey, and acknowledge this is not a moment in time, this is a movement we are forever part of for real and meaningful change.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’ I had the pleasure to interview Anisa Telwar Kaicker.
Anisa Telwar Kaicker is the Founder and CEO of her namesake business, Anisa International. She started her business in 1992 and for almost 3 decades has pioneered the leadership, product development and culture of this globally branded business through the design and manufacturing of cosmetic brushes for makeup and skincare. She partners with the most esteemed brands in the beauty industry. In 2019 Anisa chose to further expand her innovation with a specialized category of cosmetic brushes focused on skincare application through ANISA Beauty.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I was born in NYC to immigrant parents. My dad was from Afghanistan and my mother is of Russian descent. They met in Oregon and raised a family in Nashville, Tennessee. My parents had four of us and I am the eldest. We were diverse and different and yet we somehow managed to make it work in the predominately white bible belt of this rural community.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
By the time I was 21 I had already worked for my mother’s business for 4 years. I was needing training and coaching to climb the professional ladder (meaning how to get my mother to listen to me and respect me). I found a book on my mother’s book shelf (she was an avid reader) called Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill. This book is about how our mind-set drives all success and it changed my world in regard to how I understood my own ability to create success, wealth and affluence. It helped me recognize that it isn’t all about accumulating money — our motivations, if driven by something pure, open up the possibility for real happiness and abundance.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Today in this crazy time I am focused on gratitude, being grateful for the smallest things.
“Attitude of Gratitude”.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I believe leadership traits can evolve based on what the circumstance and needs of the business. However, fundamental behaviors that I respect and want to manifest, are self-awareness, self-regulation, calm in the storm and yet with the knowledge that it’s OK to be also be passionate, committed, and dynamic (as long as you keep your ability to stay organized and provide clear direction). I am constantly working on this and am highly aware that I will never perfect this balance, yet the goal is to consistently strive to learn and push myself to be better every day since I have the responsibility of so many livelihoods.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I used to feel I needed to gather an intense external energy. I would get myself too jazzed up by getting into my head, then drink a bunch a coffee and think that was a good way to prep for these types of situations.
Now what I do is meditate for a minimum of 10–15 minutes, preferably 20 minutes every morning. This calms my mind to be more thoughtful, and to not be manic, before any kind of situation. Meditating truly helps me with creative decisions and strategic solutions. It always seems to bring out something that I can use to move forward in a positive way.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
The pandemic has caused all of us to stand still. In this stillness, I believe very strongly that we have had to pay attention and feel injustice like we have never before experienced. This is what I believe happened to me. It has always been there. There have been many George Floyds and Breonna Taylors. Why are we protesting this now? It goes beyond the significance of White Silence is Violence and Black Lives Matters.
I believe the ‘why now’ is that we are finally recognizing privilege and subsequent abuse we are given as white people.
It has been built into the very foundation of our country and has never been properly addressed or accounted for. We now have an administration that fuels the racist and divisive mindsets that have been around us and now have a voice. We need leadership that is willing to acknowledge the reality and roots of this problem, and lead and guide us forward to eradicate the systemic racism our country has allowed.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us
Being the daughter of immigrants, I feel my natural inclination has always leaned towards inclusivity, so it was an eye-opening encounter to take a look at my business and the brand that I’ve been building and not see that clearly represented. Since June, and fueled by the uprising and aftermath of George Floyd’s death, I have begun implementing change throughout my organizations. From HR policies, commitment to working with diverse talent, anti-racism training for me and my employees, financial commitments and ongoing education — I’m doing everything I can to be part of the solution.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?–
For me, as the leader of global organization that includes international and national locations, many ages, races, genders, and specifically hundreds of employees in Asia — it’s critical to have the know-how and expertise from people who have different experience from my own. To be an effective leader I have learned over time that my voice is not the one I need to listen to first.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. You are an influential business leader. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
- As the leader, acknowledge and build awareness around the many ways we have fallen short as a company and make the necessary changes to course correct, commit to your own edification and journey, and acknowledge this is not a moment in time, this is a movement we are forever part of for real and meaningful change.
- Engage an employee council, bring together your people to help decide what steps they want to make to ensure we are all on the same page about the issue and how we will change ourselves and the company together.
- Have your HR team create real proactive steps to help build a business committed to inclusivity and anti-racism. Outwardly commit to this and make yourself accountable with measurable results.
- Put your money where your mouth is. Particularly for people with the means to do so, giving back and providing financial support for the organizations that are doing this work every single day is a must. Philanthropy has been part of my personal philosophy since well before my business was a success. While my giving has always supported underserved communities, I am now reassessing how to redirect resources to organizations grounded in advocacy that are working to change policy. As I am becoming more aware and educated, I am understanding how critical this work is in order to enact meaningful change.
- It becomes part of the company, brand ethos. We must not tolerate any level of racism within our company or there are consequences that are actionable.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I have to be optimistic. I need to focus forward and on the future. Giving hope and planning for better days is required because everything does change, no matter how long it takes. We will need to be ready no matter what happens.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Jimmy Carter. His humanitarian works and love for his country and family are aspirational.
How can our readers follow you online?
I am active on Instagram @TheRealATK. This connects to my public Facebook.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!