Elizabeth Cowper: A Trailblazer in HR Leadership and Culture Transformation

Elizabeth Cowper is a seasoned HR professional with over 25 years of experience, making significant contributions to renowned companies such as LVMH, Planet Organic, and Harvey Nichols. Her last corporate role as the VP HR, Global Head of Wellbeing, and member of the Global DEI Committee at Tapestry, the parent company of Coach, kate spade, and Stuart Weitzman, solidified her position as a leader in the industry.

Throughout her career, Elizabeth has consistently demonstrated a passion for fostering a culture of success within organizations. Her dedication to creating an environment that values the well-being and diversity of employees has earned her the reputation of being a “culture adjuster” by HR Most Influential. Elizabeth possesses a unique ability to showcase the return on investment (ROI) of well-being and DEI initiatives, enabling constructive conversations with CFOs and ultimately benefiting the employees. Recognizing that happier employees are more productive, engaged, and committed, Elizabeth consistently pursues strategies that promote a win-win situation for all.

One of Elizabeth’s greatest joys is leading and nurturing teams and individuals, helping them grow and learn. She derives energy and satisfaction from witnessing people develop and excel in their roles.

When asked to define leadership, Elizabeth emphasizes the importance of inspiring, guiding, and influencing others toward achieving success. She believes in supporting individuals to reach their full potential, striking a delicate balance between a hands-on and hands-off approach. Elizabeth’s leadership style is characterized by stepping back and allowing individuals to learn in their own way, while offering advice and guidance when needed. She firmly believes that there is no one perfect way to execute a task, and managing based on output rather than process is crucial. By avoiding micromanagement, Elizabeth fosters confidence and self-assurance in her team members.

Elizabeth has faced her share of challenges as a woman in a leadership position. For a significant part of her career, she felt compelled to adopt typical masculine behaviors, suppressing her natural empathetic and feminine energy. This internal struggle led her to adopt a tough and analytical approach, driven by the belief that showing emotional vulnerability could hinder her progress. However, over the past 4-5 years, coupled with personal growth and self-development, Elizabeth gained confidence in embracing her authentic self. This transformative period motivated her to create Ludo, a business dedicated to valuing truth and authenticity for all.

Balancing the demands of work and personal life is an ongoing challenge for Elizabeth, especially now that she runs her own business. The boundaries between work and personal life have become increasingly blurred, with her laptop accompanying her everywhere. However, she has discovered effective strategies to achieve balance. Elizabeth prioritizes “me time” by practicing Vedic Meditation, engaging in regular workouts at the gym, and enjoying dinners with friends. Cooking has also become a valuable outlet for her to switch off from work mode and find solace.

As a leader, Elizabeth has faced numerous difficult decisions, particularly in her role as an HR leader. Inevitably, headcount reductions and decisions affecting people’s livelihoods are part of the job. Her approach involves assessing the commercial needs of the business while simultaneously finding ways to support employees during these challenging times.

Fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion lies at the core of Elizabeth’s organization. The company’s DNA is deeply rooted in values that prioritize well-being and inclusivity. Elizabeth ensures that each team member has the flexibility to work according to their schedule, with a mandatory weekly team meeting and monthly in-person gatherings. In addition, she promotes equity by inviting every team member to participate in various company projects, even if they fall outside their typical role. This approach allows individuals to grow, develop, and showcase their unique skill sets. Transparency is key, with all objectives and key results (OKRs) being shared during the weekly team calls.

To stay up-to-date with industry trends and innovations, Elizabeth actively engages in professional development. She hosts a monthly HR drop-in webinar in collaboration with another HR professional, where they tackle pertinent topics, present insights, and facilitate discussions with other HR leaders. Elizabeth avidly reads industry publications, attends conferences, and speaks at events, all while actively networking within her industry. Furthermore, her work as a consultant enables her to gain firsthand knowledge of the present challenges faced by organizations.

Elizabeth Cowper’s journey exemplifies leadership, resilience, and the power of authenticity. Her ability to create thriving cultures, navigate difficult decisions, and champion diversity and inclusion is a testament to her commitment to fostering a better workplace for all.

Looking ahead, Elizabeth recognizes both challenges and opportunities for women leaders in business. Historically, the workplace has been designed with the needs and preferences of men in mind, often excluding women and other marginalized groups. Outdated policies, such as the traditional 9-5 workday, assumed that employees had someone at home to handle domestic responsibilities, which traditionally fell on women. Elizabeth believes it is crucial to embrace inclusive workplace policies that accommodate the caregiving responsibilities and personal needs of all employees through flexible work arrangements.

While progress has been made, there is still work to be done in identifying and addressing systemic barriers to equity and inclusion. Elizabeth acknowledges the importance of continuing to push for change and drive conversations around these issues. She is motivated daily to address these challenges through the work carried out with clients at Ludo.

Recently, Elizabeth was honored as one of the top 10 most influential thinkers in HR, at the prestigious HR Most Influential Thinkers awards.

In conclusion, Elizabeth Cowper’s journey is an inspiration to aspiring women leaders in business. Her advice to seek support from coaches and mentors during moments of self-doubt, her willingness to embrace discomfort and take calculated risks, and her unwavering commitment to gender equality and inclusion exemplify the qualities necessary for success in leadership roles. Elizabeth’s dedication to fostering well-being and authenticity in the workplace resonates with her mission at Ludo, where she strives to create a future workplace that empowers individuals and provides equal opportunities for all.