Personal care products are for everyone, but there is no doubt that the bulk of cosmetics and beauty products are marketed to women. That’s why it is so encouraging to see more and more female entrepreneurs launch personal brands, making products for women that are also designed by women.
Our industry has made a lot of strides in opening doors to female-owned and female-led companies. A few years ago, a LedBetter study found that personal care was the leading industry in female executive representation. Unfortunately, there is still work to do, as that percentage was still a measly 29%.
We can do better. It is time for investors, peers, suppliers, manufacturers, regulators, legal teams, and others in the cosmetics industry to step up and create an environment that not only allows, but actually encourages women to thrive.
After a decade of working with many women developing their own brands and products, I have come to appreciate their extreme dedication, creativity, and fighting spirit. Women have not only built our industry from the ground up, they are often the ones leading the charge on revolutionary innovations.
In 1908, Madam C.J. Walker opened a factory that developed specialized haircare products for African-American women, paired with a beauty school. Due to smart marketing and an inventive business model where Walker-trained “hair culturists” doubled as her sales force, Walker became America’s first female millionaire. She also employed thousands of marginalized women, allowing them to make a good living and put money back into their local economies.
About the same time, Coco Chanel, Elizabeth Arden, and Helena Rubinstein were making waves in the fragrance and fashion world. Each of them showed incredible business acumen, using innovative strategies like celebrity endorsements, free samples, smart investments, and perceived value pricing to launch their respective brands into the pop-culture stratosphere.
In fact, looking at the history of personal care products, it’s more difficult to find men who made waves than powerful female leaders.
The trend continues today. Kate Somerville, Pat McGrath, Emily Weiss, Tracee Ellis Ross, Taraji P. Henson, Tiffany Masterson, and countless others are developing products and platforms that give women the options they want. The female-centric model, coupled with smart leadership and a fresh perspective, has proven to be a wildly successful formula.
In short, without female founders, the personal care industry would be a completely different space. The men capitalizing on these trends would do well to acknowledge women’s contribution, but it needs to go further than that. Instead of reposting platitudes and enthusiastic encouragement, we need to participate in meaningful actions that change the culture of the business world we operate in.
Many organizations give lip service to the idea of supporting women in the personal care industry, but few lay down the capital to help them succeed. Even at the highest point, only 2.8% of venture capitalist funds went to female founders, and that number fell last year.
As an industry, we should be the first to step up and put dollars behind women-owned businesses. Not only does this impact real change, female entrepreneurs are a great bet. Businesses owned by women have higher financial performance, an increased chance of success and increased innovation, and a stronger understanding of customer needs, according to National Women’s Business Council. Not to mention that firms owned by women contribute more than $1.4 trillion in sales.
Men can also do better at believing in and encouraging female founders, wherever they are in their journey. Mentorship from peers makes a significant impact on new business owners. Business owners with a mentor are twice as likely to survive past the five-year mark as those without one. Supporting and guiding, without trying to strip away the unique perspective and ideas that make female entrepreneurs so good at what they do, is a great way to give more women a seat at the table.
Finally, we can do more to amplify female-owned businesses. If more men in powerful positions reposted articles written by their female counterparts, offered collaborative opportunities, and treated women respectfully and fairly in the workforce, there would be more powerful women to do the same.
Women don’t need men to be successful in the beauty industry––they are, frankly, doing just fine on their own. That doesn’t mean that we as men can’t, or shouldn’t, do everything we can to ensure that the strides women have made continue on an upward trend.
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