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Collaboration and Consensus: Pam Bailey Profile

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: October 3, 2008, from the February 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

Due to a heavy travel schedule, Pam Bailey hasn’t been able to make her 5 a.m. swimming practice as regularly as she likes, but she isn’t complaining. With a career that includes work with three different presidential administrations in the White House’s West Wing, the former competitive swimmer is no stranger to long hours and a commitment to staying until the job is done.

Pamela G. Bailey took over as president and CEO of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CTFA) on April 4, 2005, succeeding E. Edward Cavanaugh who retired after 22 years in the top job. It seems a rather daunting proposition to move into a job held for more than two decades by your predecessor, and Bailey acknowledged Cavanaugh’s contributions to the industry.

“I moved into this position quite humbly. I learned very early in my career ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ That’s been my watchword here,” she said. “Ed left a tremendous legacy and an association that is highly respected not only in Washington but among its members, and I don’t bear that responsibility lightly.” As she sees it, her challenge is to maintain what Cavanaugh built and to make certain the association is around to meet the challenges of the future in a similarly successful way. To do it, she’ll call on a wealth of experience and a sense of purpose honed in the pressure cooker known as ‘the District.’

Early Influences

Bailey’s years in the White House began in the Nixon administration, in the office of research and speech writing. Later, she headed the office of research before moving on to the domestic council, where she was the person on the president’s staff responsible for health care policy. “My first White House job was my first job out of college, and it was an excellent learning experience, not only for the caliber of people I worked with, but also the approach to work and problem solving.”

In her job doing research for Presidential speeches and working with speech writers such as William Safire, David Gergen, Pat Buchanan and Ben Stein, she learned that failure is not an option, that one had to meet the demands of work no matter what the time requirement or previous plans—and that successful work outcomes are based on teamwork. Her last position in the Nixon White House was assistant director of the Domestic Council, responsible for health, welfare, aging and social security policies. She served, she said, as “the honest broker between the cabinet departments and others in the White House in presenting policy options for decision-making. Again, the theme of teamwork and the importance of developing consensus was a necessity.”