International Women's Day

International Women's Day

Our CEO, Tracey Woodward sits down to discuss International Women’s Day and what it takes to be a successful woman in business, whilst taking time for yourself and others.

What is the most important lesson that you’ve learned in your career to date?

The most important lesson that I’ve learned in my career to date is that it is really important to inspect what you expect. It’s easy for things to get misinterpreted and misconstrued. It still happens to me today! It’s also important to understand that you’re not always right and that there isn’t just one way to do things, there is always another way. So definitely being open minded is important. In my teens I was never able to understand that, in my 20s I thought that I knew the way and how things should be done. In my 30s I was time poor, and had a lot more to manage; family life and work. It wasn’t until I got to my mid to late 40s and early 50s that I truly had an ‘ah-ha’ moment.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

With difficulty! It’s not easy. I think that’s because women always think they have to be doing everything and men don’t always think they should do everything. Men tend to have a cut-off point. You have to be dedicated to getting that balance right and if you can’t be dedicated, at least leave work on time 2 days a week. If I’m at head office, it’s not often that I leave before 7pm at night. When I was at Urban Retreat I used to be out 3-4 nights a week and I’d get to my holidays and desperately need them. But now, on the weekends I try to walk and give myself a little more time. It’s easier when your children are 16 and 26, so I feel for the parents that have got younger children - that’s when it is hardest to find the balance because we put everybody else first.

Have you ever encountered gender bias?

Yeah! Of course! When I was younger I was slim, blonde and female; although the beauty industry is predominantly female, those who are in senior positions are men. So yes! It is still there. But it makes me want to empower the younger generation. When my daughter was little, I didn’t give her pink toys and my son blue toys. If you’re a boy or a girl, you can be whatever you want to be!

What has been your biggest challenge that you’ve faced being a female CEO?

That’s a difficult question to answer because I’m a CEO in an industry that I’ve grown up in. I feel more comfortable and confident in this industry. I have a real passion and believe in giving people the tools to look and feel better! It’s not just about hiding a spot or learning how to do the perfect eye liner. I am so passionate about that, so it fits in easily with my CEO role. I suppose if you were to take me out and put me into a different industry, I would be faced with different challenges. But it’s very interesting that out of all of the boards only 16% are woman globally and only 5% of those are chaired by women!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

love, admire and respect women that have started their businesses from scratch. I love Kim Winser from Winser London. I think she’d done a great job! I love Rae Feather. Donna Karan created an incredible brand. Bobbi Brown, amazing woman! Laura Mercier, another incredible woman! I could go on all day. I think Jo Jenkins has done an amazing job at M&S with fashion and beauty. Aromatherapy Associates’ own Vice President, Kay Duke. She’s incredible and has run some amazing brands. I am really lucky to have exposure to lots of amazing women.

What do you think it takes to be a good leader?

You need to be realistic. Enable every member of your team to be able to have an open conversation. To encourage people to speak out. Great ideas come out of conversation. My biggest concern for the world is that there is less conversation happening, and in turn, less creativity. I think that the ability to hold your hands up and admit something is not going to work and questioning how we’re going to learn from mistakes and make them better is so important. I’m not about stopping and starting. I want to have proper strategies behind everything we do. But I’ve got no points to prove about me having a set way of doing things. I want things to be done in the right way and I want to deliver success. You need to be able to develop a mixture of talent too. It’s not just about academia, but a balance of different people.

What do you hope to personally accomplish in the next year?

I want to learn a Beyonce dance routine, that’s on my cosmic shopping list! Anybody that knows me well knows I keep a cosmic shopping list. I want to continue to enjoy what I’m doing. To finish my home renovations! I would love to have 1 whole year when I don’t spend anything on clothes because I feel there is so much that we all have and don’t need. I’d love to be on Desert Island Disk too!

What is your must-have beauty product?

First thing is definitely a body brush and a face brush. I brush my face every day when I’ve cleansed. I love the Gazelli White Oil, it’s a great treatment oil. I love all of the Aromatherapy Associates Face Oils. I always have to have a good manicure and my quick cheat is the Mavala Gel Top Coat. That’s a really good product! I use 3 more inches’ hair care. My go to product for many years was the La Prairie Anti-Stress Cream. I love all of the Aromatherapy Associates Inner Strength skincare range. I think for the environment that we live in and the stress we put our skin under, it’s essential! I wear Roja Dove Neroli fragrance and I’m never giving that up! I have my brows shaped at Shavata along with my top lip and chin threaded because that’s what happens when you get to over 50! My favourite lipstick is ‘Bitch perfect’ by Charlotte Tilbury, I have one in every handbag and in my car! When I travel I always carry the Aromatherapy Associates Miniature Bath & Shower Oil Collection.


What advice can you offer to other women who want to become CEOs?

I think that there are two ways to look at this. Do you want to be a CEO or do you want to do a job that you love? So, there is the CEO route through the academia route, or there’s the CEO that builds a brand from bottom up. Or there are industry CEOs that love the industry and want to be in it and make a difference. So I think that’s the first question you need to ask yourself. Being a CEO is like looking after a big family, more so when you’re a woman because a female CEO looks at the emotional balance of a business as well as the commercial balance. I think it does require more effort from a woman because they have to be a bit of a ball breaker and that doesn’t always come naturally. If you want to be a CEO in an industry you love and care about you have to have a lot of emotional intelligence. It comes with an awful lot of responsibility, but it’s about the ability to lead whilst growing and developing your people. It’s about making a difference and that’s why you should do it. If you don’t want to do any of those things, then you shouldn’t be a CEO. If you don’t find joy in anything you do, then there is no point! Money, stature and power doesn’t bring happiness and it’s not the way to live life. I’m not your usual CEO, I just wanted to be somebody that developed a brand. I want to be the person that leads a brand and this has been a natural progression for me.