An Open Letter to the Beauty Industry

The letter below is entitled “Women’s History Month: In Praise of Beautiful Career Paths” and was submitted by Christine Gordon, president the American Association of Cosmetology Schools.

March is Women’s History Month and yesterday, March 8, commemorated the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. These observances provide an opportunity to discuss how far women have come and acknowledge what obstacles we still face today. While we hear a lot about how women are underrepresented in math and science professions, we’re unlikely to hear much about women’s achievements in “pink” career fields.

Yet over the past century, “pink” career paths have created thousands of successful careers and businesses. America’s first African-American millionaire was Sarah Breedlove Walker, better known as Madame C.J. Walker, and she made her fortune by developing treatments for textured hair.

More than a century later, women continue to create extraordinary careers in the beauty industry, taking full advantage of technologies and innovations unavailable in Madame Walker’s day. From product developers and beauty editors to backstage stylists, day spa owners and salon professionals, it’s estimated that more than 820,000 people work in the beauty industry today. Even more remarkable is that these jobs are projected to grow.

What does a successful beauty career look like? An individual can build an international brand such as Jan Arnold created with CND or a beauty professional can create a one of a kind salon in practically any city in the nation. A beauty professional may commute to a Manhattan high-rise or create a thriving home-based business.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook 2010-11 Edition projects that careers in cosmetology will grow much faster than the national average. Skin care (esthetics) careers are projected to grow 38% through 2018, with overall cosmetology jobs growing about 20% for the period 2008 through 2018. These jobs aren’t just in big cities, but in virtually every American town.
Perhaps the most alluring part of a career in beauty is its staying power. Consider:
• Jobs in the beauty industry are not subject to off-shoring – at least until someone invents a way to get a haircut from a call center.
• Jobs in the beauty industry are not likely to be replaced with technology – until a computer can provide a haircut and color.
• Jobs in the beauty industry provide what many young people are wanting more of today – life/work balance and the opportunity to create a schedule that lets people do what they love while also finding time for their loved ones. For this reason alone, beauty careers are an attractive choice for mothers and caregivers.

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about the beauty industry is its commitment to helping others. Each year, salons, beauty schools, and manufacturers contribute thousands of hours of service to programs benefitting their communities. These acts of service and beauty include cut-a-thons that help the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Locks of Love fundraisers, and support of domestic violence awareness initiatives such as Cut It Out.

Yes, we need careers in math, science, and emerging technology fields. But let’s not forget about the opportunities available to those who want to make the world a more beautiful place.

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