The 45th Annual Outstanding Mother Awards took place Thursday at The Pierre hotel in New York, honoring three women executives who have balanced motherhood with building impactful careers, despite structural barriers for working women.
The 2023 honorees were: Tracey Travis, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Estée Lauder Cos.; Elizabeth Buchanan, chief commercial officer of e-commerce solutions platform, Rokt, and Monica Arnaudo, chief merchandising officer at Ulta Beauty.
Hosted by the National Mother’s Day Committee, the event raised more than $800,000 for Save the Children. Among the prizes auctioned off during the luncheon included an eight-day getaway to Cancun, Mexico; tickets to Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show,” and facials at Dr. Barbara Sturm’s spa.
“The dual role of mother and career woman is no easy task; it often means having to sacrifice. To succeed in one role — let alone both — is a real achievement,” said Natalie Pasquarella, the event’s mistress of ceremonies.
Each honoree took to the stage to share their experiences juggling motherhood and work, detailing both the challenges they have endured and how gratifying their respective journeys have been.
“I’ve had many different roles in my life; without a doubt, the one that has brought me the most happiness — and anxiety and worry at times — but mostly pride and joy, has been the privilege of a being mother of my two girls, Alexandria and Adrienne,” said Travis.
She added that, despite being told that raising children and occupying a C-suite role were “incompatible,” she has found the opposite to be true: “My life is proof that a career journey can be a family journey; for me, each path has enriched the other,” she said.
Buchanan, meanwhile, described each of her five children as her “favorite child” in their own way, seeking to uplift them just as they have uplifted her.
“My favorite child is Sarah, when you set the example for me of how to lead with love,” said Buchanan. Her daughter Hannah, she said, gives her hugs when she doesn’t realize she needs them; Charlotte reminds her how to be a better listener; Sophie, who was born with congenital heart disease and has endured several operations on her heart, has taught Buchanan “how to have courage to climb a mountain,” while her Buchanan’s son Baxter, she said, has taught her how to relish the small yet beautiful moments.
Onstage, Arnaudo thanked her colleagues at Ulta for their unwavering support, and spoke directly to her two children, Eric and Kayla, who she called her “best friends.”
“I’m so proud of the human beings that you have become; I adore watching you evolve, grow and shine, and you’re everything to me,” she said.
Arnaudo touched on the difficulties that come with taking care of a family while climbing the corporate ladder as a women.
“After I had my daughter, Kayla, my company set me up with a computer, a telephone and a fax machine, so that I could work from home while I was on maternity leave,” she said, acknowledging that while much social and systemic progress has been made since then, there is still more work to be done.
“Doing better can be as big as making policy changes, or as big as making company benefit changes, but it can also be simple and little things — showing love and care and empathy for the people you work with. Check in with them, see what they need, because sometimes it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference,” she said.