What International Women’s Day Means at Living Proof

different types of hair

At Living Proof, International Women’s Day is a big deal. Celebrated on March 8 each year, it serves an opportunity to recognize the economic, cultural, social, and political achievements of women around the world. And it holds special importance to us for two reasons: Not only do we create hair products for women-identifying folks, but we’re also fortunate to have talented women in our midst, whether they’re overseeing our supply chain, creating formulas in the lab, or telling stories about our products. 

Living Proof is a brand that’s rooted in science, so it only makes sense that many women-identifying people who work at the company have some involvement in STEM, too—a field that has historically not been welcoming to women. As a result, women account for just 27% of STEM workers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And looking beyond STEM, research has found that it’s harder for those who identify as women to reach top leadership spots; a Forbes study found that in North America, only 21% of senior leadership roles are held by women. We believe that we can help change things by setting an example. With that in mind, we’ve asked three women-identifying leaders in our organization to share their own experiences, advice, and wisdom for the next generation to come. 

Answers have been lightly edited for clarity. 

Alexis Tedesco, Living Proof Chief Marketing Officer 

smiling woman named Alexis Tedesco

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders?  

Finally getting over this idea of imposter syndrome and advocating for themselves.  But I see this more as an opportunity rather than a challenge.  There have been so many strides made to get women equal representation, equal pay, et cetera, but there is still this unconscious bias around women at the leadership level. I hope that the future generation of leaders eradicate the inequality that still exists by properly finding their voices in all scenarios — especially when it comes to themselves and not feel like they are forced to settle.  

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?  

Finding balance. It seems logical enough and you would think that as women we would have figured this out by now. But what most women tell you is they constantly feel like they are failing in some part of their life, so they overcompensate — disproportionately so at work. I think that it is because women feel that they constantly have to prove themselves in the workplace environment.   

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?  

I had a mentor early on in my career that was very influential for me; she was also my first boss. She was so successful at a young age — she broke through many barriers quickly in her career. And not only was she respected in a pretty tough industry (think The Devil Wears Prada) but she was liked by most and people fought to work with her. She showed me how to be confident in myself and to let that confidence be the thing that pushed me forward. So, I approached my career with no limits in my mind based on my age. If I felt like I could do something, I went after it. And it was, and always will be, important to me to be that person that people want to work with, just like she was. Don’t get me wrong, as a mentor and boss she was also very tough. But her toughness ultimately didn’t bother me. I knew she was doing it to prepare me for obstacles ahead.  

What challenges did you encounter on your path to an executive role? Are there any strategies you can share to help women overcome obstacles to advancement?  

I had a very unique path and because of that I wouldn’t say that any part was necessarily easy. Going back to my previous answer, advocating for myself was the consistent obstacle. Even though I knew how to speak up, others didn’t always want to listen. But with every job that I had, including being my own boss and running a company, I was constantly adapting and working to use the changes happening around me to better myself in some way.  I entered every role thinking ‘What do I want to learn from this?’ and ‘How am I going to utilize what I have learned?’.  I think every person should take that approach, because the more you can learn and adapt, the more dynamic you can be.  And being dynamic will always help you to advance.   

How do you recharge?  

I truly feel lucky to do something that I genuinely love every day. But we all need time to step back, regroup, and recharge.  I clear my head on a bike ride, take my dog on a long walk at the end of the day, watch one too many hours of TV late at night to zone out, or completely disappear to a beach. And there is nothing like a night out laughing with friends to completely reinvigorate me. 

Shanti Vadlamudi, Living Proof Vice President of Supply Chain 

smiling woman named Shanti Vadlamudi

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of female leaders?  

Each new generation brings a new perspective and new ways of doing things that everyone can benefit from. I hope that they won’t have the same challenges that previous generations have had, but unfortunately, change moves slowly. And I think it’s important to note that everyone has the capacity to lead — no matter what position or title they hold.   

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?  

Burnout. Women have been taught that they have to do it all — be the best mother, best wife, best boss, best daughter, best employee, best friend, et cetera. Even the quote about Beyonce having the same 24 hours as you do perpetuates the idea that however much you’re doing, it’s still not enough. And once you get close to the edge of burnout, it’s hard to bring yourself back. So, it’s important to guard against it.   

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?  

I really lucked out because when I first started, I worked with three women who took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. I’m still friends with them today! One of the best things you can do is seek out mentors for various stages of your career and become a mentor yourself, often before you think you’re ready. The benefits are vast. It’s always good to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and who can provide an objective perspective and draw on their own experiences when you encounter various things that you may not know how to approach.   

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?  

Indra Nooyi, former CEO of Pepsi. I don’t agree with everything she says, but I admire what she was able to achieve while she was CEO — and she often did it while rocking a sari!  

What challenges did you encounter on your path to a leadership role? Are there any strategies you can share to help women overcome obstacles to advancement?  

I think we’ve all encountered similar challenges, it’s just the degree of severity that varies and how you respond to it. When faced with obstacles to advancement, you have to figure out why it’s there. And then map out a path to overcome it. This often starts with taking an honest and open self-assessment. Is there something you should be doing differently or a skillset you’re lacking? Bring your manager into your career development conversation early and communicate often. And find a mentor! Someone you admire who has something that you want to further develop.  

How do you recharge?  

I recharge through travel: I usually go to India every two years and then try to go to a country I’ve never visited on my off years. And of course, an island vacation thrown in! Trips and vacations are very different, and both are equally important to me. And hanging out with my fam. We don’t celebrate Christmas, so Thanksgiving is a big deal for us — my mother’s rule is if you’re alive and, in the country, you’re at her house for Thanksgiving! The ritual of it is very comforting for me. 

Judy Zheng, Living Proof Chemist III 

smiling woman named Judy Zheng

What do you think will be the biggest challenge for the next generation of women in STEM?  

I think the same challenges today will carry over to the next generation of women in STEM. There’s still the wage disparity or the thinking that women cannot be as smart as men.  

What advice would you give to women who want to get into STEM?  

We need more women in STEM; we can achieve so much in numbers. Don’t be hesitant — there are plenty of women in front of you trailblazing a path for the rest of us, and there will always be women behind you looking up to you for guidance. We all need to help each other and work together and that way, anything is achievable. Don’t let anyone say you can’t get into STEM.  

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?  

I think there are still several issues women face in the workplace, such as getting overlooked for promotions or pay raises if they’re not as outspoken or confident as their male counterparts. Another is knowing that men won’t need to take 12 weeks off for maternity leave, which translates to them being more ‘reliable.’  I also think women in general are too nice or hesitant to step on toes to get ahead, but also when we are assertive, we’re deemed bossy or a ‘problem’ instead of being a great worker or leader.  

How do you recharge?  

Rest up at home or read a book with a nice warm latte.