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What Wella Company’s New CEO Wants Girls To Know About Ambition and Authenticity

An International Women's Day Interview with Annie Young-Scrivner

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Women and men at Wella Company raising hands for #ChooseToChallenge; Photo credit: Patrick Crook
Women and men at Wella Company raising hands for #ChooseToChallenge; Photo credit: Patrick Crook

As Women’s History Month kicks off and International Women’s Day is celebrated, girls everywhere are looking up to new role models. Leaders who have challenged bias (indeed, the 2021 theme of International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge), brands with inspiring messages to share, and executives willing to take the time to share their wisdom with the next generation.

Wella Company CEO, Annie Young-Scrivner is one such executive. Assuming the reins at the beauty giant after leading teams in over 30 countries, most recently as the former CEO of Godiva, Young-Scrivner knows about gender bias and why mentors matter. When the mentorship platform for global girls, Être, asked for role model advice in honor of International Women’s Day, this leader was more than ready. 

Below is an edited version of that interview.

We’re so excited about IWD and Women’s History Month! What is your company planning to share during this month? We are committing to a month-long global celebration of Women’s History Month, and a special commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8th. At Wella Company, our business is built on the foundation of women – our more than 500,000 customers across 100 countries worldwide, and our hair and nail beauty-loving customers and consumers everywhere.

Throughout March, we’ll celebrate all these #WomenofWella by spotlighting the entrepreneurial women who founded our brands: OPI, Nioxin, and Sebastian Professionals. We’ll showcase customers and brand ambassadors who inspire us through their creativity and artistry; and we’ll bring our own Women of Wella to the forefront – our female leaders who bring commitment and passion to all they do to drive our business every day.

We love learning about leaders like that. At what point in your life did you decide your goal was to become CEO? Was there a breakthrough moment?  I’m a first generation American. Growing up, my family had various small businesses so I saw my parents in operation every day. By the age of 10, I knew I wanted to run a business. My parents’ decision to move to the US was the breakthrough moment in my life. We were living in Greater China and they saw America as a land of opportunity for me – and what I could accomplish in my life.  So we made the move to America and the endless possibilities unfolded. I’ve always been a big believer in the American Dream. 

Are there certain actions girls our age (in high school and college) can start taking now to set themselves up for success? I believe in dreaming big and defining your own destiny. 

My advice to all girls is to set your goals high and never allow people to put you down. Surround yourself with people that shine positive influence and authentically want to support you.

Annie Young-Scrivner

Support your community as well. I was very involved in DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) during high school. At DECA, I ran the student store, took part in competitions, and organized fundraisers to support the school. This taught me invaluable skills, which I’ve treasured throughout my career. My first job was at the age of 16. I learned how to strengthen core skills in key business areas such as time management; it also established my life-long belief that building strong relationships at work is very important. 

How do you think the beauty industry is changing, particularly for our generation? I love being part of the beauty industry, especially today, where there is a constant and diverse stream of innovation coming from all parts of the globe. There are so many more ethnic-focused beauty products, which deeply resonates with my appreciation for diversity as a core foundation for business growth.  There is also a strong and honest push for a sustainable beauty industry, something that is very close to the values of Wella Company and where we are already placing significant focus.  

Beauty is personal truth magnified. We have the privilege of helping people discover their unique way of expressing themselves. In fact, this truth is embedded in our Wella Company purpose: “Together WE enable individuals to look, feel, and be their true selves.” This remains our guiding focus.

Who is a woman or a mentor you most admire, and why? I’ve been very fortunate to have amazing mentors. Indra Nooyi is top of my list for many reasons. Beyond her incredible success, it’s her passion for doing the right things and her commitment to those who are on her team – which truly makes her exceptional. She invests her time in people and I am one of the really fortunate ones who has witnessed first-hand many of the incredible things she has accomplished, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. 

How has Wella Company uplifted women and stylists who have taken a hit during the pandemic? Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis we have made our best efforts to support our industry and our most vulnerable partners, such as independents and small businesses. During lockdown, we’ve focused on supporting our customers by helping them adapt their business models during closure. We’ve also helped educate them on government relief funds available in their markets, and provided curriculum and education programs online at no-charge to every hairdresser and salon out there. Strong education is a great way to help professionals be prepared to accelerate their business recovery once social distancing restrictions are lifted. 

Through these efforts, including some payment relief targeted to the smallest of our partners, we’ve been able to support an estimated 100,000 industry partners worldwide. Our teams in North America have deployed a $200,000 fund through Hairdressers at Heart, part of a total $650,000 COVID-19 industry relief package. We have also supported our workers on the front lines. To date, our teams have donated approximately half a million pairs of gloves, 150,000 capes, over 10,000 hair products and hand sanitizer. We are optimistically anticipating the reopening of more and more markets globally. This gives me hope that better days are coming. 

We have hope too. Last question – what is one thing you want today’s girls to know about authentic beauty?  For me, authentic beauty is the reflection of your gifts, your passions, your pains and your life experiences in daily manifest. It is who you are. Nothing is more beautiful than a woman who is confident and at peace with her sense of self.

And to us, nothing is more impactful than a leader sharing wise words at exactly the right time. As women band together on International Women’s Day and throughout Women’s History Month, girls across the globe will be watching their actions. 

Sharing their stories. Eyeing their brands.

And reflecting to themselves as they stare deeply into the mirror: That could be me.

Because the right a role model told them – on a day when everyone was listening – that ambition is good, that authenticity matters, and to set their goals high.  

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