How to Do Business Better : With L’Oréal Canada President and CEO An Verhulst-Santos

A Legacy of Leadership

An Verhulst-Santos embarked on her journey in the beauty domain three decades and three years ago, commencing her tenure with L’Oréal Groupe’s Professional Products Division in Belgium, her native land. Presently at the helm of L’Oréal Canada as its president and CEO, she manages an extensive array of 39 brands and guides a diverse workforce comprising 1,450 individuals. “My impetus stems from recognizing beauty as a universal aspiration endowed with the potential to sway the world,” she affirms.

Shaping Leadership Paradigms

Upon assuming her role at L’Oréal Canada’s Montreal headquarters in 2021, Verhulst-Santos clinched the distinction of being the inaugural female to occupy the position. Her entry brought forth a treasure trove of wisdom honed through global stints spearheading teams in France, the United States, and Brazil, shaping her leadership ethos into a visionary blend of experiences.

Insights into Leadership and Diversity

As our leader-in-residence for March, An shares insights with CB on the tenets underpinning her career ascension, her guiding leadership ethos, and the foundational principles poised to mold the future trajectory of Canada’s beauty sector.

Navigating Challenges and Diversity

In navigating the terrain of leadership, Verhulst-Santos identifies pivotal challenges intertwined with embracing change and venturing beyond her comfort sphere. Departing from Europe, she assumed the mantle of guiding teams in Brazil and the United States. These international forays enriched her with invaluable insights into diverse consumer predilections and cultural subtleties, profoundly influencing her leadership paradigm rooted not solely in gender, but in professional acumen and global perspectives.

The ethos of gender diversity and inclusion assumes paramount significance under Verhulst-Santos’ stewardship at L’Oréal Canada. Her stewardship heralded the establishment of the Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer position, currently held by Marie-Evelyne François. An all-encompassing approach, spearheaded by François, is instrumental in fostering an inclusive work milieu, aimed at enlightening teams on critical intersections for a more encompassing operational framework. Verhulst-Santos champions the belief that diversity and inclusivity fortify creativity and ambition within teams, underscoring the imperative for greater representation of women and BIPOC voices in leadership echelons across industries.

Fostering Professional Growth and Advancement

At L’Oréal Canada, initiatives abound to nurture the professional advancement of women within the corporate milieu. Programs such as the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science endeavor for two decades to empower women in scientific pursuits, epitomizing the commitment to inclusivity. Similarly, the Women 4 Climate initiative endeavors to mentor women entrepreneurs on their sustainability odyssey, signaling a firm commitment to fostering diversity and innovation.

Beauty Beyond Aesthetics

Beyond the realm of cosmetics, Verhulst-Santos espouses beauty as a catalyst for confidence and self-expression, transcending mere aesthetics to encompass identity shaping, both individually and communally. The universality of beauty, she contends, traverses temporal, spatial, and cultural boundaries, encapsulating an enduring human aspiration.

Empowering Women Through Fashion and Beauty

In her vision, the fashion and beauty sector wield a transformative power in championing women’s empowerment. L’Oréal Canada, in alignment with this vision, embarks on initiatives tailored to empower women, exemplified by YSL Beauty’s proactive stance against intimate partner violence through their Abuse is Not Love campaign.

Motivation and Inspiration

Spanning over three decades within L’Oréal, Verhulst-Santos draws motivation from an array of achievements, acquired through seizing opportunities as they unfold. With L’Oréal’s steadfast dedication to beauty spanning over a century, she takes pride in the company’s strides towards sustainability and its commitment to revolutionizing beauty through technology, inclusivity, and personalized experiences. Anchored in Canada, where L’Oréal recently marked its 65th anniversary, her focus remains steadfast on shaping a future underscored by equitable treatment, access, and opportunities for all.

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