Just a glance at Avon Chairman and CEO Andrea Jung's résumé is already a lesson on how to fast-track your career, and certainly a wealth of inspiration for all women determined to zoom up the corporate ladder while still making a profound difference in the world.
Only the most jaded would not be impressed: At age 35, Andrea was president of Avon's product marketing group. At 40, she was named CEO of Avon, one of the youngest to ever be appointed for a global brand with presence in over 100 countries; and at age 42, in 2001, she was elected Chairman. In 2010, at age 51, she was ranked #5 on Fortune magazine's "50 Most Powerful Women in Business" list, and ranked #2 on the Financial Times' "Top Women in World Business" list for the second year in a row.
The magna cum laude Princeton University graduate is the daughter of a Shanghai-born mother, a chemical engineer-turned concert pianist, and a Hongkong-born father, an architect who taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her first job as a management trainee at Bloomingdale's was just the start of a swift and successful career in retail. At age 28, she became Senior Vice President at I. Magnin; and at 32, prior to joining Avon, she was Executive Vice President at Neiman Marcus.
In addition to her corporate credentials and business acumen, Jung has also been very savvy about the power of imagery: She's probably the only CEO to have developed an iconic image of her own personal style--always clad in her ubiquitous pearl choker and sporting a side-parted longish pageboy with slightly flipped ends. It doesn't hurt, too, that she can command a room (or coliseum, as she did during her visit here) with her towering presence at 5'7" and fit figure that's every fashion designer's dream. So iconic is her image that Mattel made her a one-of-a-kind Andrea Jung Barbie doll with long, black hair, a pearl choker, and a black pantsuit when she handled Barbie promotions as Avon's head of marketing in the mid-90s.
Last week Andrea Jung breezed into town to celebrate Avon's 125th Anniversary in Manila, the 13th stop on the 16-city Avon Believe World Tour. About 10,000 Avon Representatives converged at the Araneta Coliseum, Typhoon Kabayan notwithstanding, to celebrate the company's heritage and mission to empower women. Manila is the 13th stop in the 2011 Avon Believe World Tour along with London, Istanbul, New York, Chicago, Mexico City, Warsaw, Moscow, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Shanghai, New Delhi and Johannesburg.
At a roundtable interview before the celebration, Femalenetwork.com, along with editors from the Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Manila Bulletin had the chance to get to know the dynamo and find out how she has combined corporate success and social responsibility with a dash of style.
Question: What are the most pressing global issues for women today and how are you and Avon determined to meet them?
Andrea Jung (AJ): Our founder believed that women should be able to be economically independent, and this was a very novel idea in the US 125 years ago, before women could even vote. Now, in over 100 countries, this thought is still very much alive and very powerful.
We're called "The Company For Women," and today there are 6.5 million women around the world empowered by Avon to earn and support themselves and their families. Avon is also the largest micro-lender to women in the world on any given day $1B is extended to women to our representatives, they don't pay us for our products until they have received or delivered them to their customers.
But we are very aware that in addition to economic empowerment we believe that women cannot be empowered unless they are healthy and safe, so we tirelessly work so hard to go all around the world talking about our main causes in support of breast cancer and to help end violence against women--a problem that is very global, it is an issue that knows no geographic or socio economic boundaries.
Q:Which pressing women's chalenges in the Philippines is Avon focused on alleviating?
Avon has been in the Philippines for 33 years and in that time it has embraced the goals of empowering women. Since 2002, Avon Philippines has raised more than P12M to support the fight against breast cancer. Avon also launched Speak Out Against Domestic Violence in 2009 to increase awareness against this issue, raising P104,000 in its first year.
The Philippine National Police in 2010 reported a 91% increase in the number of reported cases of violence against women and children. This is an issue that every single Avon Representative and Associate here is very passionate about. For our 125th year, we established a special fund, the Avon Global Believe Fund where $2M in grants will be given to domestic violence shelters and agencies in 16 cities where the Avon Believe tour takes place. In the Philippines, we're giving a $60,000 grant to the Women's Crisis Center, which offers a very comprehensive range of crisis intervention and programs for survivors of gender-based violence.
Q:What is your message to the average, ordinary woman about being empowered in all aspects of your life?
AJ: In order to be truly empowered you have to be financially independent. You have to have your health and have to be able to be very sure you can be safe.
This is why we tirelessly work so hard to go all around the world talking about our main causes in support of breast cancer and to help end violence against women. The business model of Avon is all about economic empowerment combined with our causes. We actually did some grassroots research in 1997 to really understand what causes our Avon representatives and customers wanted to be involved in and they said breast cancer. Unfortunately, breast cancer affects one out of eight women. That's why we took on the very bold move of joining the fight against the disease. No one was really talking about it at that time. Today, Avon has given about $800M to help the fight against breast cancer.
Also, one out of three women are victims of domestic violence in their lifetime. It doesn't matter which country or socio-economic class a woman belongs to, it's a very prevalent and concerning statistic. This is something Avon feels very strongly about and wants to help [alleviate.]
So if you're a woman, speak out! In the Philippines there are organizations and services and opportunities to help get the message across.
Q: What drives you? You said you've heard a lot of stories about women whose lives have improved because of their on their own initiatives and because they can believe they can do better. As the one on top, what drives you to pursue what you do?
AJ: As you can imagine, I'm greatly privileged to be the one on top, but I'm sure the 40,000 people who work for Avon probably feel the same way. Every morning that we get up we feel that we have the privilege of having the opportunity to influence lives like that.
I'm not a fan of the word power but I like to think that in the role that I have I can influence society. When I got out of college I actually wanted to volunteer and join the Peace Corps. We had no money then and my parents said, "Well, you really need to go and get a job." And so I thought for many years that they were two different choices: One was getting a job and the other was being able to do philanthropic work and give back to the community. I think at Avon, I get do both, all of us do. There's a purpose in the work, there's a social goodness, and every day the work that we do gives our representatives lots of opportunities, as well as the work that we do against domestic violence and improving women's health is actually not for profit.
Not many people have the privilege of getting to do both. We all have a love affair with the special opportunity to meet the kind of women that we do. They are truly inspirational. I don't know how some of our representatives find the strength or have such positive optimism to achieve the kind of things that they have, they are an inspiration for all of us.
Q: You've been the head of Avon for 11 years. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
AJ: My father sent me an article once that said that the average tenure for CEOs is about three years, so I feel privileged to have been at the helm for 11 years. It's a 125-year-old company. It takes time to write a chapter. Change doesn't happen overnight. I think we've tried to change many things in the company over the last decade, to improve the image of the brand, to increase our market share in new categories.
We've introduced Avon Self-leadership, which is an opportunity to increase the earnings of representatives worldwide that did not exist for the first 120 years or so. It doesn't happen overnight, but we've made progress on that. Lastly, the work we've done in the foundation when I became CEO we've now raised about $800 million. I'm very proud, I didn't do that--our people have done that in over 100 countries, but everybody has understood the power of being one of the top companies worldwide, to give back. It takes time. But I'm proud that it happened in the last decade.
Q: What are your personal mantras for success and happiness?
AJ: I have always been very, very quick to tell other people to share something someone once told me because it's really made a difference in my life. My mentor once told me, "Follow your compass, not your clock."
Follow your heart, not your head--do work that you love not just because of the title or anything else. And it's made a big difference, and when I have the opportunity to mentor young women or men and they want to know what it takes, I say, "Look, if you have two people with equal skill sets, and of course are both competent, if you start there, and one loves the company and its people and for the other one it's just a job, the one who'll be successful is the one who loves the company."
I know many people or even my peers in bigger companies, but they don't love the company the same way. I think it's love. The job is not easy but the good can far outweigh the tough times if you have a passion for the work.
Another piece of advice I always remember giving to young people [involves the story of] a boss of mine who once very early on in my career had a poster behind his desk that had a picture of a potted plant and said, "Bloom where you're planted." People used to come in and say, "I don't like my boss." Or "I don't like this job," or "I'm bored," and he'd say, "Bloom where you're planted."
You will learn more from the tough times by sticking it through. Sometimes, even if you have a tough boss, you will learn more about how you don't want to be once you actually become the boss someday, and it will become one of your best learning experience. I thought it was a very interesting at the time and when I look back now, I realize that it is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever given.
Because some people get impatient and they don't understand that staying the course and sticking through a tough situation and being on the other side are important [lessons] in developing leaders. It's not always an easy task, people read my résumé and probably think it looks like it was easy but that's not true for everybody.
Q: You're the longest-serving female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Did you have to work harder because you're a woman?
AJ: I'm sure you just have to work hard today in CEO jobs whether you're a man or a woman. When I first started, even before I became CEO, there was certainly more of a glass ceiling, but I was lucky because Avon has always believed that women should have [the same] opportunities because of the company culture and DNA , [which] was great.
During my first interview with the company with the Chairman Jim Preston, there was a poster in his office which showed four footprints: that of a barefoot ape, a barefoot man, a man's wingtip shoe and a woman's high heel. It was called "The Evolution of Leadership." There were no women in senior jobs in 1993. I asked him, "That is a great poster! Do you really believe that?" And he said, "Avon is a company with millions of female representatives selling it, so someday a woman should run Avon." I think he really believed it!
We believe in giving women the opportunity, and that was true for me too, and so I got the chance. I don't think it should be a better chance than a man should have, but there should be an equal chance for women and men to run the company.
When I became the CEO, he sent me the poster in a plaque with a big bow on it, and it's now behind my desk.
Q: What lipstick are you wearing? Is it Avon? What's your favorite Avon product?
AJ: The color is called President's Red. With each new formula we launch, they always give me my shade. This one is called Colordisiac, a new lipstick formula.
My newest favorite product is called Lotus Shield, which is an Anti-Frizz Serum. People always say, "But you're Asian, you don't need this! But when it's humid, even though my hair is straight...I have my two bottles for [this trip], and with all this rainâï¿½¦I'm addicted to it! It's a great product. I love the smell. You put in your hair before you dry it, and honestly, for two days it really [looks great.] Rain or shine, I can vouch for this product.
Q: It must be an advantage that the CEO can get all girly and test the company's products.
AJ: Yes, I think it's a fantastic [part of the job.] I spend time up in our labs reviewing product innovations every several months, so of course I get the first samples. Sometimes they'll get an email from me saying, "Oh this mascara flakes," or "This nail polish is now perfect, it doesn't chip!" I get to be a guinea peg and test the secret formulas probably a year in advance.