With personal photographs of both her family and her company flashing on a big screen behind her, Aerin Lauder, businesswoman, fashion icon and granddaughter of the founder of the Estee Lauder beauty brand, extolled some of Miami’s most philanthropic women to continue their work serving the needy. She drew parallels between building relationships in the business world and creating bridges within the community.
Women and communication, she added, were at the heart of success in both endeavors. "Telephone, telegraph, tell a woman was her motto," Lauder said about her grandmother.
Lauder addressed about 1,000 women at the University of Miami’s BankUnited Center for the 15th annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast. The event is open only to members of the United Way Women’s Leadership, about 2,000 women who make an annual donation of $1,000 or more to support the organization’s work in education, financial stability and health. In addition to money, most also give of their time, serving on boards and volunteering at different United Way-sponsored activities. The leadership has raised $81 million for the United Way.
In her talk, Lauder drew comparisons between her family’s own philanthropic work and what the women in the room have accomplished. "Good partnerships are essential," she said, adding that working together both empowered people and contributed to their sense of community.
Lauder, the style and image director for the Estee Lauder Companies, talked about launching her own luxury lifestyle brand, AERIN. So consumed with the details of her new business that she once walked her two sons to school in her slippers, a detail that was met with knowing laughter.
She also referred to the Lauders’ dedication to various organizations. The family’s charity, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, founded in 1993 by Evelyn H. Lauder, has raised more than half a billion dollars for research. Her own passion is bringing books to children in low-income communities.
Lauder is the latest speaker to address what has become a high-profile event for local women executives and philanthropists. Previous speakers have included Chelsea Clinton, Paramount Studios CEO Sherry Lansing, Academy Award-winning actress Goldie Hawn and former Spelman College President Johnetta Cole.
Darlene Boytell-Perez, chair of this year’s leadership breakfast and a nurse practitioner as well as the wife of developer Jorge M. Pérez, said in an earlier interview that Lauder was chosen as a speaker because she comes from "a powerful lineage of women, businesswomen who are also philanthropists intent on giving back to the community." She hoped Lauder’s own story as a working mother of two would inspire the younger generation to take up the work of helping others.
At the breakfast, Boytell-Perez told the crowd that they were "an unstoppable force for good." She encouraged the women to use social media to let elected officials know about their support for bills in both houses of the Florida Legislature that would allow the state to expand the Florida KidCare program to provide health care for uninsured legal immigrant children. Currently these children must wait five years to qualify. The United Way of Miami-Dade supports removing this five-year waiting period, which will extend coverage to more than 13,000 uninsured, lawfully residing children.
"Don’t think for a minute that our voices don’t matter," she said.
Lauder was introduced by three generation of Miller women, the local family that founded homebuilder Lennar and has contributed generously to a variety of causes in South Florida. Sue Miller came up with the idea for the breakfast 15 years ago, when 200 women attended the first breakfast.