Cara Sabin: “Ending systemic racism is everyone’s job.”

The CEO of Sundial Brands discusses leading as a Black female CEO

July 22, 2020

As an MBA student, Cara Sabin remembers sitting in a Fuqua auditorium to hear Ann Fudge, a then president with Kraft Foods, give a talk to her class.

“In 1997, to see an executive that looked like me, that was from where I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, opened my whole world,” said Sabin.

Sabin would join Fudge at Kraft Foods that summer, first with an internship, and then with a full-time role upon graduation.

She began her conversation with Dean Bill Boulding for the Distinguished Speaker Series by commenting on what an out-of-body experience and full-circle moment it was to be invited, like Fudge, to share her experiences with Fuqua students.

From Kraft Foods, Sabin moved into leadership roles with Johnson & Johnson, Capital One Financial and L’Oréal. In December of 2019, she was named CEO of Sundial Brands, makers of the SheaMoisture line of products, a leading hair and skincare provider serving consumers of color.

Sabin admitted that life changes once you become a CEO.

“The notion that you are always, always on is something that I realized quickly, along with a larger, public-facing aspect. That was a big awakening,” said Sabin.

She says her leadership style is collaborative, but clarifies this did not mean giving up decision-making authority or power. Rather, her motivation is always to absorb different perspectives and then proceed with a decision.

The hour-long discussion spanned a variety of topics. Sabin, chairperson of Fuqua’s Minority Alumni Advisory Board, explained why she feels so strongly about affinity groups, of which she is a founder. 25 Black Women in Beauty, which celebrated its first anniversary on Juneteenth (June 19), seeks to elevate and inspire Black women through intentional networking and relevant insight.

“When you are, ‘the only’ in a room, in an organization, in a group of 200 leaders, it’s lonely and you feel isolated. In that isolation, you have the feeling of imposter syndrome. There is something around having the network and having support that is very enriching and fulfilling.”

The full video can be viewed above. Shorter snippets from the talk are below, including Sundial Brands involvement with the, “Pull up or shut-up challenge” where companies voluntarily and publically divulge the number of Black executives they employ.

“One of the great things to come out of the antidiscrimination movement is radical transparency. Now the real work is to focus on ‘What is the action? How are you going to diversify?’ That’s the positive change that needs to come.”

Sabin says all races and ethnicities must take a strong stance on social justice and equity issues.

“I alone and Black women and Black people cannot solve this. We need everyone to solve it. People have come to the realization that this is a human rights issue. Ending systemic racism is everyone’s job. We need everyone to be engaged in this.”


The importance of affinity groups
As CEO, you’re always on
Pull Up or Shut Up
Ending systemic racism is everyone’s job

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