Leena Nair is Chanel’s second female CEO – but ‘doesn’t want to be the last’

The CEO of Chanel said she got about 7,000 emails and letters from women and girls praising her appointment, she told The Wall Street Journal earlier this week.

Leena Nair had been working in corporate throughout her entire life. Photo: @leenanairhr/Instagram

The French luxury retailer appointed Leena Nair as its second female boss in its 113-year history in January 2022.

“I’ve been the first at every job I’ve done. The first woman, the first brown person, the first Asian, the first Indian – but I don’t want to be the last, and I am going to try and make it easier for those who come after me,” Nair told the Journal, adding that one of her mottos is “lift as you climb”.

Models present creations by designer Virginie Viard as part of her haute couture autumn/winter 2023-2024 collection show for fashion house Chanel on the banks of the River Seine in Paris, France, on July 4. Photo: Reuters
Fortune’s Global 500 rankings of the world’s companies by revenue, released earlier this month, found that just 29 – or six per cent – have a female CEO. That’s up from 24 last year. That shows there’s considerable room for improvement at the top of the biggest businesses.

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Nair said she’d been told she couldn’t do something “because I’m a girl” many times in her life. The 54-year-old added that “afterwards, you stop listening”.

Leena Nair worked as an exec at Unilever before she joined Chanel in January 2022. Photo: @leenanairhr/Instagram
Maureen Chiquet became the Chanel’s first female boss when she was appointed as its global CEO in 2007, before resigning in 2016 due to strategic differences. Chanel co-owner and chair Alain Wertheimer took over the role for five years until Nair was appointed.


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