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When it comes to female-led beauty brands worldwide, there continues to be cultural, and gender divides, which presents opportunities to learn from those who have met the challenge. In the U.S the significant shift of women stepping into C-Suite roles in the beauty and wellness industry has caught the eye of Italian leaders. This is particularly true with indie-beauty brands, which have emerged as disruptors and innovators, often founded by female entrepreneurs who discovered a niche and filled it.

Italy has not been quite as fast to break tradition and cultural norms regarding women in executive leadership. If you’ve ever attended CosmoProf Bologna, you’ve seen beautiful booths filled with fashionable men and women in designer clothes. Still, when it comes time to meet the big boss, you are often introduced to a sophisticated man in an exquisite suit.

There is a clear and present opportunity for women today to come together and support one another, share their knowledge, exchange viewpoints, and succeed through helping one another. This point was illuminated by The Ambassador of Italy to the United States, Mariangela Zappia, the first woman in Italy to hold this position, during her opening remarks at an event in NYC sponsored by The Italian Trade Commission’s Beauty Made In Italy’ program and Italian Beauty Council. Ms. Zappia stressed the need for institutions in Italy to support female entrepreneurs and leaders.

On the heels of International Women’s Month, we joined the intimate group of beauty veterans gathered at the Italian Trade Agenc in NYC to discuss the challenges Italian women have in leadership roles at Italian beauty brands. The conversation compared and contrasted perceptions and attitudes in leading a business in the U.S. versus their home country of Italy.

Samantha Barry, Editor-in-Chief of Glamour facilitated the lively conversation. Panelists included three female beauty executives at the top of their game, leading or founding an Italian beauty brand;

Elisa Giraudi, CEO of Perlier,

Annalisa Zanoni, Founder at Glamove

Lucrezia Del Papa, Head of Business Development at Olivella.

The panelists represented brands founded in Italy that have expanded distribution to the U.S., exposing cultural differences and opportunities to cultivate a new path forward.

The esteemed panel of Italian beauty leaders left the audience with these key takeaways:

💡Save the criticism, share the knowledge - Having a group of people to call upon to share resources, best practices, experiences, knowledge, and lesson learned is essential to women in leadership. A McKinsey & Company U.S. study in 2022 found women CEOs sponsor and mentor other (female) workers at a higher rate than male colleagues. These leaders want colleagues and mentors to come together to help everyone rise, and in doing so, raise the entire beauty industry.

💡Leave the competition on the field- Rather than seeing brands as competitors at every turn, these women want to forge new ground. They encourage their fellow leaders to lend support and words of encouragement and work together to build the industry for future female leaders.

💡Lead with style- They advised female leaders to establish and refine a leadership style that works for them. They shared the importance of being consistent, collaborative, and kind, even while acknowledging management style may vary based on your company culture and the country in which you run your business.

The women passionately expressed their unique perspective on the leadership landscape as it exists today and their desire to help the next generation of female leaders rise to the challenge of running a global company. Having this type of dialog is undoubtedly a good start.

If you want to get involved with leadership mentorship programs here in the U.S., here are a few of our favorites:

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