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Aiming High: Tracey T. Travis

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Tracey T. Travis

Since 2001, the prominent civil rights organization Legal Momentum has honored the most successful and influential people who advance women in the business community with its Aiming High Award. Tracey T. Travis, executive vice president and CFO, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., is one of the five people being honored this year.

This year’s 16th annual Legal Momentum Aiming High award honorees will be celebrated at a luncheon on June 7 in New York. They are:

  • Lynn R. Charytan, executive vice president and general counsel, Comcast Cable, senior vice president and senior deputy general counsel Comcast Corp.
  • J. Michael Cook, retired chair and CEO, Deloitte
  • Barbara J. Desoer, CEO, Citibank, N.A.
  • Natasha Lamb, partner, Arjuna Capital
  • Tracey T. Travis, executive vice president and CFO, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.

Tracey Travis did not expect to land in the world of consumer products at the beginning of her career, but paths change. Travis’s path to becoming executive vice president and CFO of The Estée Lauder Companies began at General Motors (GM) Corp., where she worked as an engineer until the company awarded her the GM Fellowship to pursue an MBA degree. After returning to GM for some time in both divison and corporate finance roles, Travis was recruited by Pepsico where she held finance, strategy, and general management roles during a time of rapid product and market growth. Following Pepsico, American National Can Co. offered her the opportunity to gain IPO and informative technology experience before being offered the role of CFO of Intimate Brands and Limited Brands, a company that owned many popular women’s apparel brands.

When asked about whether she was strongly drawn to the retail world, Travis demonstrated her curiosity and willingness to challenge herself. “I’d never worked in retail, apparel, or personal care before, but I felt that many aspects of the consumer experience I gained in CPG were transferable and I welcomed the opportunity to both learn and contribute in a different industry.” Soon after Travis began her tenure at L Brands, the primary owner of Intimate Brands, she was recruited by the Jo-Ann Stores board for her first public company directorship, a role she attributes partially to the recommendation of others she served with on private boards.

“Some of the strategies that I’ve seen work well for women with an interest in serving on public company boards is to first make people aware of your interest, as well as their qualifications for a board,” Travis shared when asked about tactics women could use to make more significant inroads in the boardroom. “I’ve also found that your own board members can be quite helpful as sponsors, as well as your own CEO, so that tactic has also worked well for many women.” Travis also landed a seat on the Campbell Soup Co. board, another company known for their commitment to women leaders, in her last year as CFO of Ralph Lauren Corp.

Travis has been with The Estée Lauder Companies, a company that holds leadership by women as a core value of their company, since 2012. When asked about how Estée Lauder cultivates and supports women leaders, Travis had some impressive numbers to share. “A few interesting statistics: at the conclusion of 2015, almost 85 percent of our workforce was female globally. Forty percent of our general manager positions are female. Three of 12 of Estée Lauder executive officers are women, and seven of 15 of our board members are women. We have a pretty robust talent management process, and out of that process comes a list of high-potential employees, many of whom are women as you would expect.”

Outside of working time, Travis is committed to supporting organizations in the arts, education, and women’s causes. She is a member of the Women’s Forum of New York, on the Board of Lincoln Center Theater, and on the Boards of Columbia Business School and the University of Pittsburgh. “I really enjoy mentoring and coaching young women and minorities, and always try to find the time to do so—whether it’s breakfast meetings or after work meetings.” She is also proud of Estée Lauder’s philanthropic commitment to different health care and education causes, and, in her own words, “I’m passionate about being a mom to my two daughters.”

Travis recognizes the power of resilience and the value of a helping hand, and hopes to pass those values along to other women, girls, and mentees. “I’ve been really fortunate in my career, especially because I’ve had such a non-traditional one for both women and minorities, to have had strong sponsors who believed in me and supported me in various roles I’ve been in throughout my career. I’ve always tried to view any challenges as opportunities that you learn from and then more on. Resilience is certainly key to have throughout life.”

Since 2012, NACD Directorship magazine has served as the media partner for the Aiming High awards.