Director, Global Retail Environmental Health & Safety (EHS)
The Estee Lauder Companies
New York, N.Y.
Drena Howard was drawn to science as a child. At South Carolina State University, her professor and mentor, Ambroso Anoruo, Ph.D., encouraged her to study biology with an environmental research track. “He was tough on me and instilled in me a very strong research and study ethic,” recalls Howard, who was Anoruo’s lab assistant. She graduated with a degree in biology.
Now, as the director of Global Retail Environmental Health & Safety at The Estée Lauder Cos., she ensures a safe and healthy work environment for employees in every division of the company, from manufacturing to retail. “Most of the compliance laws that we have in place in this country happened because of catastrophic events or environmental issues,” remarks Howard, who previously worked at GE, Shell Oil and United Technologies Corp. “Protecting people and the planet — those unifiers are the same no matter the industry.”
She especially enjoys the industrial ergonomic component of her job. “When the marketing department asks for my feedback on how to safely conduct product demonstrations at a retail event — whether it’s encouraging customers to create their own makeup shade or even doing a cool demonstration of putting things in an oven — the number one priority is life safety.”
In addition to her bachelor’s degree, Howard holds a master’s degree in environmental management from Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and a master’s in public health, from the School of Public Health, also at Yale. A member of the Gracious Guides Ministry at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn and a regular volunteer at the Saturday homework clinic for the Children of Promise, NYC, she enjoys annual family vacations, sitting on a beach or taking a long flight with her phone turned off. “I can indulge in nothingness and be totally unplugged for a while. It’s like a nice vacation,” she sighs.