It’s there when you turn on the TV. It’s there when you open a magazine. It’s there when someone behind you in line at the grocery store whispers that you’re too old to be wearing that. We live in a society that constantly tells women who they should be. One of the biggest perpetuators of this kind of pressure? My own industry: beauty. While many brands, both in the beauty industry and outside of it, have launched body-positive campaigns, widespread change still eludes us. It begs the question: are we as business leaders really doing enough to counteract the negative messages of our perfection-obsessed culture?
The majority of the large companies that make up the $50 billion beauty industry are run by men. Incredible, right? Products intended for and marketed to women are not created by women at all. Is it any wonder that the beauty industry has become a distorted reflection of what most women really want?
Since I started StackedSkincare® in 2011, I have embraced my role as a “girl boss” in a male-dominated industry, working to mentor and empower my predominantly female team. However, I believe it is necessary, especially as female business owners, for us to take leadership even further and create what I call a “female empowerment butterfly effect.” When one of us rises to a leadership role, we make choices that uplift all the women we interact with—from customers to senior staff.
Here are a few of the practices that I believe are the key to creating change.
HAVING A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CUSTOMER IS A TOOL, NOT A HINDRANCE
Women leaders are known for their compassion and empathy. While some men have been claiming for centuries that a female touch is too soft for business, the reality is that women leaders listen to customers and their peers—creating collaborative solutions that are the cornerstones of effective and adaptable companies.
It’s this willingness to listen and learn that gives female-led companies the edge over their competitors. Just this year, my company sent out a survey to our entire database to analyze their skin concerns, wants, and needs. Our rapid growth had brought us to a crossroads and it was vital for me to learn from my customers in order to continue to build an authentic brand. We’re now directly using the feedback gathered from our customers to create new products and tools. Rather than telling women what they need, I believe in letting the consumer create what she wants. My goal is to open up the beauty conversation to be just that – a collaborative two-way conversation based on communication, not dictation.
UPLIFT YOUR CUSTOMERS LIKE YOU DO YOUR BEST FRIENDS
In beauty, the big change will come in the way we speak to women. To do that, we need to let go of some of the business practices that we women did not create, forging new paths that reflect our aspirations and values. We need to build marketing campaigns that mirror the ways in which women really interact with each other—campaigns that build you up like a good friend.
Did you know that Facebook often flags beauty brand ads for violating their body image policy? When I first ran ads, they were denied over and over for “bullying.” I was stunned—I’m bullying people with skincare? Then I had an aha moment. I was using language that was standard in my industry, but Facebook’s algorithm had been able to see something that I hadn’t: that beauty companies use language that bullies their customers about their natural appearance, telling them to change rather than celebrate how they look.
I realized then that part of my challenge was to use language that reflects my company’s goal to uplift women. StackedSkincare is about helping women highlight who they are. You want to apply nightly serums to keep your face smooth and glowy so that you feel vibrant? Great. But you are not “less than” if you don’t. You are not worthless if you have eczema or acne. We need to shift away from the narrative that tells women that they don’t deserve to be happy unless they’re perfect towards one that encourages women to reveal and enjoy their natural selves.
BE THE LEADER YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD
According to an American Express analysis, between 1997 and 2014, the number of woman-owned businesses in the U.S. rose by 68 percent! Now that’s the change we want to see—especially in industries with primarily female consumers. With women in leadership positions, we can begin to create ads that accurately reflect our diversity, and innovate solutions with our customers that actually serve their needs and aspirations.
I have built my business slowly, prioritizing customer experience over the bottom line. I have worked hard to ensure that I am not only leading my team with integrity, but nurturing a larger team that includes my customers and their invaluable feedback. As women, we need to continue to surround each other with support, with helpful and constructive criticism, with creativity and shared values. It’s by creating community with one another that we can create products and brands that actually matter to us—impacting change in the beauty industry and beyond.