The beauty industry may seem like the last place that could ever embrace the message of the female empowerment, but now in 2017, brands are taking the mantra of female strength and diversity to a whole new level. Gone are the airbrushed ads filled with stick-thin models, and here to stay are campaigns that embrace women of all sizes and colors.
To get a better understanding of how beauty brands are taking the female empowerment message into their own hands, we talked to four brand founders and CEOs on what girl power means to them.
1. Jane Iredale, Founder and President of Jane Iredale - The Skin Care Makeup
As the founder of president of her own beauty brand for over 20 years, Jane Iredale has definitely seen a shift in the beauty industry, as she notes that the message now reflects natural confidence, self, expression, female strength, and diversity. She credits the internet in spearheading this change, as consumers are now using social media as a tool to communicate with brands on what beauty means to them.
“When I started my company, impacting women's lives began almost immediately," says Iredale. “In those days, they let us know by phone; now it comes from all directions, including social media, texts, e-mails, and reviews. And it isn't just about the products, it's also hearing from single moms who've been able to keep a family together by selling our line in their workplace. There's nothing like the satisfaction in that."
Giving back is another part of how Iredale's company embraces female empowerment, as she is the largest employer of women in the Great Barrington area, where she works with dozens more through the company's international reach. In addition, her brand partners with Living Beyond Breast Cancer which raised more than $477,000 to help those in need.
But at the end of the day, Iredale says that girl power is all about giving confidence to others, as confidence can help a woman feel like she can conquer anything.
“It's all about confidence," iterates Iredale. “If you can impact that, and we do every time a woman feels better about the way she looks, then the girl power increases."
2. Angelica Fuentes, Entrepreneur, Businesswoman and Founder of A Complete
With the new wave of girl power defying normal beauty conventions, Angelica Fuentes argues that brands are responding to the message by adopting it into their own campaigns. A Complete is no exception, as the brand works with strong, empowering, and inspiring influencers of all ages and backgrounds.
“Our main goal is to show our customers and potential customers that there are no beauty stereotypes, and that gender and age are not something that define you as a woman," says Fuentes. “We believe that all women are marvelous and unique, just for existing, and we want A Complete influencers to reflect that."
In celebrating women, Fuentes' brand has definitely seen a lot of results. A Complete's Mother's Day campaign for example, partnered up with five different influencers of all ages and backgrounds.
“We have seen great results with female-forward marketing campaigns; they have been our greatest growth tool in the past few months," says Fuentes. “Campaigns that encourage women empowerment boost our sales, and considerably grow our social media platforms."
3. Carolyn Aronson, Founder, CEO and Owner of It's a 10 Haircare
Carolyn Aronson Courtesy of Home Business Magazine
Like Jane Iredale, Carolyn Aronson of It's a 10 Haircare credits a new generation of tech-savvy women to growing the message of female empowerment. Through these mediums, women are making their voices heard louder than ever before. Taking the reigns of the industry is another way Aronson sees female empowerment through beauty, as It's a 10 is one of the few woman-owned professional hair-care brands in the world.
“The beauty industry is interestingly mostly run by men, although its products are mainly marketed to women," says Aronson. “I'm all about handing the torch and not only putting women in positions of power, but hopefully inspiring them by example and sharing my path of experience for others to learn from. It's still a man's world, but every step towards women being given opportunities they didn't have before is progress."
Embracing diversity is another way Aronson's brand embraces female empowerment, as the brand caters to all women, regardless of their color or race. The brand's 2017 Super Bowl commercial clearly illustrated this message, as the ad focused on real-life women instead of airbrushed models.
“It's a 10 Haircare made history with our industry-first Super Bowl Commercial, which celebrated diversity," says Aronson. “I could have hired models for this, but instead I hand-picked everyday people I admired, and I shot the commercial in black-and-white, because real beauty doesn't need color. I wanted to show we are all perfectly imperfect in our own ways."
But despite the positive feedback from the recent big game commercial, Aronson assures that uplifting women has been and will continue to be a top priority from the brand.
“I recently bought out my male partner and it was one of the biggest moves I've made as an entrepreneur and brand owner," adds Aronson. “I answer to no board of directors. From the products we develop to the message we share, it is 100 percent done on my own terms, which makes every woman (and every person) feel like a ten."
4. Kay Zanotti, CEO of Arbonne International
Kay Zanotti Courtesy of Arbonne
Encouraging women to become financially independent is a big priority for Kay Zanotti at Arbonne International, as the brand's Independent Consultant sales force is 98 percent female. Zanotti sees this as a great way to empower women, as it gives them an opportunity to have their own business and create their own schedule.
“Our Arbonne Independent Consultants live and breathe the female empowerment message every day through their business of transforming lives with Arbonne's products and opportunity," says Zanotti. “There is no other brand I've ever worked on that inspires positive leadership and provides women, especially, the chance to truly own their lives and decide when they work, where, with whom and how. It's life-changing."
Celebrating Independent Consultants has also been the sole focus of the Arbonne brand's marketing campaigns, as Zanotti sees them as the brand's real influencers and celebrities. In focusing on individual success stories of everyday women, Zanotti sees this as empowering women through beauty.
“This is just one example of the kind of campaigns we do that share the message of female empowerment in a way that celebrates the success of the individual we're spotlighting, and at the same time it promotes the products and opportunity to other women who can relate to the stay-at-home mom or teacher or doctor or even the Amish woman from Ohio who have, each in their own way, started from scratch and built a business and transformed their lives and the lives of people they know," says Zanotti.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.