Gina Boswell, chief executive officer of Bath & Body Works, stressed the importance of taking risks when rising up the career ladder. 

“If you want to rise — taking smart risks, not crazy risks — is important. The more you ascend I find the realization is that the biggest risk of all is not taking risks. That was something I wish I had known before,” she said at the third annual WWD x FN x Beauty Inc Women in Power event at the Rainbow Room in New York.

Her biggest risk was when she changed industries altogether and went to Ford Motor Co., she said, joking that she didn’t even know how to change a tire at the time.

The move paid off, and Boswell believes that working different roles in a multitude of industries helped her to become a CEO.

“I moved from finance to strategy to marketing to sales and those are not similar functions,” she said. “It’s great to lead the orchestra, but it’s even better if you’ve played a few of the instruments.”

As for taking up her first CEO role in 2022, Boswell noted that the prep was the culmination of all the leadership roles she’d had before. “I was in many roles that were in large, global, personal care businesses.”

Boswell previously worked at Unilever, first as executive vice president of personal care in North America, before being appointed head of Unilever U.K. and Ireland. Most recently, she was president of customer development for Unilever USA. She joined Unilever through the acquisition of Alberto Culver Company, where she served as president of global brands. Earlier in her career, Boswell held leadership and business development roles at Avon Products Inc., Ford and the Estée Lauder Cos.

As for her achievements at Bath & Body Works, it’s fair to say she has hit the ground running, working to transform the established retailer as a stand-alone business following its spin-off from L Brands.

That includes launching Bath & Body Works’ loyalty program nationwide. The company has said enrollment speed is one of the fastest in the industry, and the program has 38 million members to date. Loyalty sales represented approximately two-thirds of Bath & Body Works’ U.S. sales since launch.

The retailer also entered fabric care, debuting its first laundry detergents and scent boosters online and in 80 stores this fall, with plans to introduce fabric softeners and other products within the category.

Boswell sees the greatest opportunity in beauty in fragrance. “Fragrance is such a deeply olfactory experience. It can transform moods, it can change your views about yourself, it can improve connections with others and I’m just so pleased with fragrance in general and how it’s imbued in all different forms,” she said.

“For us I don’t know any other company that can take a signature scent and go from a soap to a candle to a wallflower to a body wash to men’s and to laundry. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity in fragrance,” she said.

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