10/07/2014 08:06 am ET Updated Dec 07, 2014

Women in Business: Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President, Global Philanthropy and Corporate Citizenship, for The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and Global Director of the M·A·C AIDS Fund

Nancy Mahon is the Senior Vice President, Global Philanthropy and Corporate Citizenship, for The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and Global Director of the M·A·C AIDS Fund, the leading corporate funder of HIV/AIDS work globally. In her newly designated role, Ms. Mahon will design and implement a global corporate citizenship strategy, encompassing all philanthropic, cause-marketing, and employee engagement programs across The Estée Lauder Companies. She is responsible for synergizing best practices in these areas across the Company's brands, regions and functions, further integrating citizenship into the Company's strategy and evaluating their business and societal impacts.

Ms. Mahon joined The Estée Lauder Companies as Vice President, M•A•C Cosmetics and Executive Director of M•A•C AIDS Fund in 2006 where she oversaw a four-fold increase in the Fund's charitable contributions and instituted rigorous metrics and evaluation processes. In 2009, Ms. Mahon was promoted to Senior Vice President, M•A•C Cosmetics and expanded her role to also support cause marketing programs for Bobbi Brown, Jo Malone London and La Mer in 2011. In recognition of her leadership, Ms. Mahon was appointed by President Obama as Chair of the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS in 2011, a role she continues today.

Prior to joining The Estée Lauder Companies, Ms. Mahon served as Executive Director of God's Love We Deliver and as Senior Program Executive with George Soros's Open Society Foundation. She also served as Private Delegate to the UN Commission on Women, Founding Member of the National Institute of Medicine's Forum on Global Private Public Partnerships and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Parsons School of Design, The Museum of the City of New York and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Ms. Mahon graduated magna cum laude from Yale University and NYU School of Law.

How have your life experiences made you the leader you are today?
Growing up, my mother was a social worker, and my father was a lawyer. I ended up being a hybrid of the two. Early in my career, I took a job in New York working with prisoners living with AIDS, which as a young person was a very profound place to work. I helped the prisoners get tested and gain access to treatment for those who were positive. This experience germinated a unique desire to help the most underserved, often overlooked populations, which has been a theme throughout my professional life.

I am also a strong believer in hard work and the importance of surrounding yourself with people who inspire you. Throughout my career, I've been fortunate enough to have mentors who encouraged me to pursue the incredibly fulfilling work I do today. Today at Estee Lauder, it's incredibly rewarding to help counsel and guide people within our company, especially those who want to be successful in the workplace while doing good in the world.

How has your experience at God's Love We Deliver aided your current role at MAC AIDS Fund and Estee Lauder Companies?
During my time at God's Love We Deliver, we expanded the organization's mission beyond HIV and AIDS to include cancer and other illnesses as well. During this season of change, I learned how to maintain a strong brand while evolving an organization's mission and purpose.

During my time at the MAC AIDS Fund, I have been able to apply these same principals to expand our HIV/AIDS work to boldly support marginalized and vulnerable people globally, especially those who have historically been overlooked by charitable donors. Today, the MAC AIDS Fund is committed to supporting diverse organizations that provide a wide range of services, from education to treatment, as well as holistic care for people living with or impacted by HIV/AIDS.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at MAC AIDS Fund and Estee Lauder Companies?
Running a charitable foundation alongside a very successful cosmetics brand presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges. It's important to remember the mission of both entities and to leverage each brand to enhance the work of the other. The brand legacy of MAC Cosmetics has been instrumental in enhancing the MAC AIDS Fund's impact in its fight against HIV and AIDS. Since our founding 20 years ago, we have raised more than $340 million through the sale of MAC's VIVA GLAM lipsticks, with 100% of the sales price going directly to the cause itself. Not only has the Fund impacted millions of lives around the world, the cause has become the heart and soul of MAC Cosmetics and is passionately embraced by staff at all levels.

How is Estee Lauder Companies innovating in corporate social responsibility?
At the Estee Lauder Companies, we have dual goals for corporate social responsibility. We aim to do good in the world and to do good by the brand. We believe that both elements must exist in order for CSR programs to thrive, and we've developed a proven formula that supports both.

Because we have an extensive portfolio of brands from Bobbi Brown to Aveda, Jo Malone, La Mer and more, we have the unique opportunity to identify and support causes that align with each brand and its customers. MAC Cosmetics is a shining example of how social good can provide long-term business value.

The MAC AIDS Fund has become the leading corporate funder globally working to put an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Last year alone, the Fund raised $40 million exclusively through the sale of MAC VIVA GLAM products, and we engage celebrity spokespersons such as Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Lil' Kim, RuPaul and our 2014 VIVA GLAM spokesperson, Rhianna, to drive support. The MAC AIDS Fund has become a leader in corporate philanthropy, and we plan to emulate this strategic model across other brands at Estee Lauder Companies to do more good for more causes.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Daily exercise and surrounding myself with great people are key to maintaining a happy and healthy life. Remembering that I'm part of a broader team is also crucial. I have a fantastic group of colleagues, and we make a point of sticking together in both exciting and challenging times. An open and honest outlook helps to clarify my priorities and energizes me to pursue them. I have a great job and an incredible family. They remind me not to take myself too seriously and encourage me to enjoy the work I'm so privileged to do every day.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
One of the biggest challenges for women in the workplace is staying confident and business-focused, even when you feel personally under pressure. Sometimes you just need to be tough and stand your ground. At the end of the day, your focus needs to be on getting the job done, even at the cost of being liked. Of course, this is easier said than done!

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentor relationships encourage personal and professional development in the workplace and in the broader scheme of life. In my own life, they have taught me to celebrate victories and provided a framework for coming to terms with loss in an open, honest way. It becomes less about the accomplishments and disappointments, and more about the experience as you grow alongside someone you trust and respect. You can do that with a mentor in ways you can't with family.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I am a huge fan of Hillary Clinton and also have a lot of admiration for Kathleen Sebelius. Under great pressure and scrutiny, these women don't simply give in; they continue to do what is right. In my opinion, the Affordable Care Act is going to be one of the most important pieces of legislation ever, and Kathleen has really put herself personally on the line in order to see that it has the best shot at coming to full fruition.

What do you hope to accomplish in your role at the MAC AIDS Fund and Estee Lauder Companies in the next year?
One of our biggest goals at the MAC AIDS Fund this year is to continue our work in closing the gap between the "haves" and "have nots" when it comes to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. We want more people to know their status and to have access to the treatment they need in order to live long and happy lives.

At Estee Lauder Companies, we plan to expand our cause initiatives for our diverse portfolio of beauty brands. At the end of the day, we want to do more good in the world, and in doing so, do good by our employees and our brands.