By Terri Horvath
Men hold the top jobs in a large majority of U.S. corporations. No surprise. But doesn’t it seem ironic that men control the beauty product industry? On BrandFinance’s 2015 list of the 50 most valuable cosmetic brands in the world, only two — Chanel and Avon — are led by women. The brands ranked at six and 11, respectively.
Even Mary Kay, which was started by a woman, has a male CEO. Still, these companies makes products used primarily by women, and they often rely on women as sales people or middle managers. The reasons for this gender disparity in the beauty industry are probably the same as for other Fortune 500 corporations, said Ellen Kossek, the Basil S. Turner professor of management at Purdue University.
Women tend to value relational aspects more than men. Therefore, they take time out of their careers to be the family caregivers and lose seniority. They prefer to have a more balanced work/personal life. Then there is the proverbial glass ceiling that still exists. But Kossek says that a shift in the workplace is coming. “Some of the younger men who are on the fast track have seen the women in their lives, like their moms, going to work every day,” she says, so they tend to recognize women as business leaders.
Plus, an increasing number of companies promote a work-life balance for both men and women employees. Neither men nor women have to sacrifice family for the board room. Statistics also back the case for women. Research shows the value of gender balance on a company’s board of directors. “Those who do have this balance actually have higher financial performance,” Kossek said. Having women with a voice in marketing beauty products just makes good business sense. One Indiana company that kept an eye, either consciously or subconsciously, on women in management is Vera Bradley. Founded in 1982 by Barbara Bradley Baekgaard and Patricia Miller, the company produces several fashion accessories, most notably quilted handbags. The company’s website shows Baekgaard remains a key figure with three other women accompanying her in the top eight slots. The CEO, however, is male. Some of the few female CEOs do feel a responsibility in encouraging women toward senior management roles, said Krista Hoffmann-Longtin, assistant professor of communication studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “They have seen these gaps and have taken responsibility about doing something about it. And, we are more and more accepting of the idea that the more diverse voices that are in the board room, the better we can understand how to market to our customers.”
So, there are females in the board room, and the notion is growing. But for those wanting upward mobility, you need a key component, suggested Charlotte Westerhaus-Renfrow, senior lecturer of management at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business — an MBA degree. “If you take a look at some of these women who are CEOs, more often than not, you’ll see that most of them have one thing in common,” she said. “They all started out working in finance, and they have MBAs.”
She also agrees with Kossek and Hoffmann-Longtin on two other essential elements for climbing to the top — a mentor and an advocate or sponsor. “The mentor helps teach you, whereas an advocate is really like a cheerleader,” she said. Both are necessary, but an advocate is the one with the connections to get you into the leading roles.
Skip the glass ceiling by starting your own business
One way to surpass the corporate world’s glass ceiling is to start your own company. One business owner found success doing just that. Renee Gabet, co-owner of Annie Oakley Perfumery in Ligonier, Indiana, started crafting hand-blended fragrances and essential oils in her kitchen in 1980. Since then, her company has been recognized by the national media, won a 2012 innovator’s award in the Fort Wayne area and has had a significant jump in business.
In addition to sales outlets around the country, Annie Oakley relies on the Internet for sales. With hopes of finding similar success, other Indiana entrepreneurs are selling their beautifying wares on etsy.com. A partial listing includes the following:
Jael Skincare from Indianapolis featuring skin care products made with shea butter cream Lather and Lotions Studio from Fort Wayne featuring decorative soaps
Lilly’s Soap Kitchen from Indianapolis featuring a complete line of vegan skin care products
Tuttle’s Bee Butter from Goshen with skin products made of beeswax, cocoa butter, shea butter and other oils
Favor Care Organics from Indianapolis featuring organic hair care and skin products