I am often asked how I got ahead in the beauty industry. And the truth is, I hit the glass ceiling pretty early on. I was ‘opinionated’ (aka ‘had an opinion’), always stuck up for my co-workers, wouldn’t put my work before my family – and didn’t expect my employees to – and I demanded equal pay.
The beauty industry, like the majority of industries, is still ruled, in general, by middle-aged (and older) white men.
The heads of most, not all, but most companies are men. Privileged, college-educated, white men.
Please do not mistake my passion for women’s rights and equality as misandry. I have fabulous men in my life and am trying to raise 3 fabulous men of my own. But my wonderful home life experience has in no way been reflected in my work life. It is not easy to get ahead. But you can do it.
Some of the questions I have been asked along the way include:
‘Oh you’re keeping it then?’ – when I told my boss I was pregnant.
‘You know that’s a really good salary for someone who doesn’t have a degree.’ – Yes, let’s ignore my 20 years of experience (at the time).
‘Who will take care of your children while you’re doing shifts?’ – Oddly a question no-one has ever asked my husband.
‘What are you going to do about childcare in the summer holidays?’ – see above
‘Are you pregnant?’ – I’m sorry? What?
‘Do you plan to have any more children?’ – none of your business. Also: kind of been illegal to ask me that for a long time..
‘I hope you’re not going to ask for time off to go to a nativity play?’ – I reminded them of the umpteen hours of unpaid overtime I had given them and YOU KNOW I went to my child’s play. (This was a female brand owner by the way)
and my personal favourite, when I declined a big role with a multi-national company because they wouldn’t match my required salary:
‘This is what we feel you are worth.’ – Well, excuse me. I decide my worth, not you. And FYI, I know XXX that also does this job, has 15 years less experience than me and has the courtesy of a penis between his legs is on £15k more than this as we speak, for the same role.
And it’s not just the men, women higher up than me have all too frequently pulled the ladder up behind them, something I have vowed never to do. Something none of us should do.
I do love the beauty industry, but I love my fellow woman more. Whatever your colour, religion, sexual orientation, educational background, political standing or personal history, know your worth, don’t have it judged for you by someone else.
And if you can’t get ahead, start your own company and forge your own path. I’m proof that it can be done.
And always, always, pull yourself up with one hand – but leave a hand free for your sister.