Stephanie Headley makes her mark in the beauty biz

In crafting Procter & Gamble’s Olay brand, the MBA graduate ensures the industry is more representative.

Stephanie Headley smiling, wearing a patterned shirt in front of a grey backdrop.
(Photo courtesy of UNC Kenan-Flagler)

Stephanie Headley (’03 MBA) is the first woman of color to be senior vice president of North America skincare at Procter & Gamble. In crafting the Olay brand’s identity for a new generation, she isn’t just redefining long-held standards of beauty — she’s shattering them.

“I have this amazing opportunity to help shape the beauty industry and make sure it’s representative of all people,” says Headley. “It’s about continuing Olay’s legacy of empowering women to be confident in their skin so they can be confident in their broader life. That’s how I see my work’s real purpose and mission.”

Olay’s marketing focuses on inclusivity, confidence, empowerment and self-care. It partners with organizations that support women of color who are interested in STEM careers, coding and film directing.

“It’s important that more leaders get invited to the table,” she says. “Every person has gifts and talents that can make them an amazing leader. It’s up to us to embrace leadership that looks and feels different in the very best way.”

A different kind of leader

Headley’s first-year study group looms large in her experience in UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Full-Time MBA Program.

“It was the most unlikely group of five,” says Headley “We were this unique and random cast of characters thrust together on this journey. But what we were able to accomplish and learn from each other taught me the power of relationships in business.”

That power is evident in Olay’s support of the Queen Collective, a mentoring program for women interested in becoming film directors. At Olay, more than half of the scientists creating innovative products are women.

“We have time and time again received amazing feedback that people felt seen,” says Headley. “It all opens more hearts and minds to what’s possible in a STEM career connected to beauty. We need good scientists and engineers in skincare.”

Promoting STEM is personal. Growing up in Kilmarnock, Virginia, a small town east of Richmond, Headley remembers the math games she played with her grandfather. They inspired her to study to be a high school math teacher.

But after graduating from the University of Richmond, she spent two years as an operations manager at Philip Morris in Richmond. There, for the first time, she saw business leaders who looked like her. The plant manager told Headley she should consider pursuing an MBA.

“I was looking to take my education and professional experience to the next level,” says Headley. “I had some good leadership instincts and some exposure to business. I needed more.”

Always a Tar Heel

In her search for an MBA program, Headley felt an instant connection with UNC Kenan-Flagler. She dove into classes, wanting a taste of everything.

“The MBA program was dynamic. It was energizing. It was this great balance of being challenging but also supportive,” says Headley. “I was able to try on different types of leadership hats and not just grow but thrive. I found my own point of view as a leader.”

After graduation, she joined P&G as an assistant brand manager for Febreze Fabric Refresher. For 20 years she moved up the ranks, with such roles as senior global brand manager, associate director for brand operations and marketing director for Olay.

Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, Headley returns to Chapel Hill each year to recruit.

“When I come to UNC Kenan-Flagler, I know what kind of leaders I will meet,” she says. “They are confident in their abilities and know exactly what they want.”

Read more about Stephanie Headley.

Headley will be coming to speak April 2 at the Kenan Center as part of the Dean’s Speaker Series.