Maria Hatzistefanis, 47
Founder and CEO of Rodial
After facing countless rejections from investors, Maria Hatzistefanis stormed the beauty industry in 1999 with her cosmetics line, Rodial, now worth over $100 millions. Utilizing a radical approach to marketing and cutting-edge ingredients previously unseen (i.e. “dragon’s blood” and snake venom), the Greek-born beauty famously collaborated with Kylie Jenner on one of the first “influencer” campaigns, which put her brand on the map. Since then, she’s launched millennial-focused sister brand Nip+Fab, had two kids and has authored a how-to bestseller. Talk about an underachiever!
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I decided to start my own business with Rodial as I saw a gap in the beauty market for a seriously active, fast acting and hardworking brand that would provide solutions for specific skincare concerns.
Working in the beauty industry wasn’t always the plan, but I had complete belief in Rodial and I knew that I could make it work. My greatest achievement is really seeing all of my hard work come together and seeing Rodial become one of the biggest brands in the industry. We have now expanded into makeup which is such an achievement as the competition nowadays is fierce, but the range is continuing to grow and sell out all over the world which is amazing to watch.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
When you start your own brand you will have people slam the door in your face because you are not a corporate machine. People told me that I would never get my products into the biggest department stores, or that sending them to celebrities would result in nothing. I think I can openly say that that kind of negative noise has been proven to be completely wrong! I explore this in my new book, How To Be An Overnight Success, chronicles how I started Rodial and all of the obstacles I encountered along the way, along with valuable advice on how to start your own brand.
"People told me that I would never get my products into the biggest department stores, or that sending them to celebrities would result in nothing."
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
Being an independent brand not owned by a big beauty conglomerate and not having massive advertising budgets is always a challenge as the big retailers give priority, space and benefits to the corporates more easily than to a smaller brand.
I have to prove that my brands can make it happen and can achieve the sales, innovation and exciting launches. Harvey Nichols in London believed in Rodial and gave us the opportunity to launch a flagship counter. To date, we are consistently on the Top 5 best performing brands ahead of a lot of the well-known beauty brands out there.
4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
First, I removed the negative energy. You need to surround yourself with people that believe in your quest, that believe in your goals as crazy as they may seem! You need to be around people that motivate you, not people that put you in a box and tell you to stay there. I think that for me, my journey has been all about willpower. When people say no to me I just won’t take it, I will strive to make it work whatever it takes.
"When people say no to me I just won’t take it, I will strive to make it work."
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Believe in yourself, your ideas, your hopes and your dreams. It’s not meant to be easy; there is going to be something waiting for you at every corner to try and bring you down, along with negative people,and the dreaded ‘no’ that you are going to encounter. You have to persevere, drown out the noise and prove that you cannot be stopped!
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.