L’Oréal USA was one of the very first SeeHer members and has played a pivotal role in the movement ever since. Marc Toulemonde, who has had several prominent roles at L’Oréal, most recently was named Chief Digital and Marketing Officer for L’Oréal in the US and has always been one of the men who SeeHer. We asked this Beauty trailblazer about his perspective on the SeeHer movement and how equality is activated at L’Oréal USA.
L’Oréal USA was involved with SeeHer since its launch in 2016 and you have been a trailblazer in the movement to create a bias-free world. How would you characterize how the mission has changed and where we stand in realizing gender equality in media?
Empowering women to reach their full potential has been at the core of L’Oréal’s mission for decades, and we are continuously evolving our portrayal of gender equality to tell her story in a more authentic way. For example, for 50 years the “Because You’re Worth It” slogan has empowered women of all ages and backgrounds to believe in their beauty and sense of worth. Since its inception, the tagline has inspired different generations of women and has evolved to represent many women. Since SeeHer launched in 2016, we have chosen to challenge ourselves to go further in our pursuit of gender equality by featuring more people of diversity in campaign content and running more media in diverse environments to reach diverse audiences. We also developed tools and analytics to hold ourselves accountable and inform future campaigns by tracking our progress. At L’Oréal USA, we are determined to go beyond where we are today and continue the progress toward greater gender equality in media and beyond.
You assumed your current position in late 2020, in the heart of a pandemic. How has this “new world” impacted your efforts to portray women and girls accurately?
We are on a mission to inspire the best of beauty in her, not just on her. This “new world” has taught us that we must strive for continuous growth and improvement. We are listening more to understand what really matters and influences her. The deeper we understand how the new world environments are influencing women the better we can serve and represent her authentically. As the number one beauty company in the world, we believe it is our responsibility to serve her better than anyone else which is why we are in a continuous state of transformation. At L’Oréal we don’t believe in beauty standards, we believe in beauty as an enabler. Our brands enable each woman to be who she wants to be and look how she wants to look to be her most confident self.
What have you learned about the relationship between accurate portrayals of women and girls in ads and programming to ROI?
We have learned a lot over the years, especially in partnership with SeeHer. We now know that creating ads and telling stories that inspire ambitions in a relatable way builds an authentic relationship between brands and consumers. From a business perspective authentic content outperforms traditional beauty creative in brand sentiment studies and over indexes in aided ad recall and purchase intent studies. In partnership with SeeHer, we are continuously striving to represent women accurately in their multiplicity of roles, ambitions, and aspirations to better represent and connect with her. Today, especially because of SeeHer’s work, women are seeing a fuller representation of themselves in media. Media plays a crucial role in inspiring and shaping young people’s ambitions, which is why marketers and companies are responsible to continue moving the industry forward.
You have several ongoing corporate initiatives related to gender equality. Tell us about them.
L’Oréal USA has long been committed to promoting gender equity, and we are proud to have programs that act on our mission of building a fair and equitable society. Our ambition is to be authentic in the giving and support. For example, each year, L’Oréal Paris recognizes 10 extraordinary women from North America who have truly turned their purpose into action through charitable giving. L’Oréal Paris’ Women of Worth Initiative elevates and supports the work of women community leaders which is directly in line with their brand position of being worth it.
Our L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science program was created with the aim to improve the position of women in science by recognizing outstanding women researchers who have contributed to scientific progress. The awards recognize women’s contributions in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields and commitment to serving as role models for younger generations.
Through our Employee-led Think Tanks we have partnered with organizations that align with our beliefs and mission to promote equity, such as NY Coalition of 100 Black Women, Ali Forney (LGBTQ Youth), National Partnership for Women and Families, and Promundo USA (Men). Furthermore, as part of our L’Oréal for the Future program we have created a 50 million euro charitable endowment fund to support on the ground organizations and local charities in their efforts to help women out of poverty, help women achieve social and professional integration, provide emergency assistance to refugee women, provide emergency assistance to disabled women, prevent domestic/sexual violence against women and support survivors, and overcome obstacles to women and girls’ access to education.
In recent months L’Oréal has participated in equality-related content opportunities such as People’s Choice Awards, Critics Choice Awards and Rescue 911 to name a few. What insight can you share with other marketers about your decision to lean into these opportunities?
At L’Oréal, participating in equality-related opportunities is engrained in our culture because we believe it is our responsibility to use our influence and resources to elevate women. The role of all business leaders today is to move the world forward and make it a more equitable place. I hope to see other marketers and companies verbally and financially supporting women because when women rise in society, we all rise.
As one of the men who SeeHer, what advice would you have for other male top executives on how to contribute to the movement?
Throughout my career, I have been very fortunate to work alongside numerous professionals – of all genders – who believe in the importance and even the necessity of having a diverse and inclusive workplace and who supported and advocated for me. My advice is to embrace the movement and empower people of all genders to take on leadership roles and together build a corporate culture where people can authentically show up as who they are. Look inside your own organization and provide the space for women to rise and champion them by creating opportunities for hiring, promotions, and advancements.