You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Paycheck Fairness Act (currently pending in the Senate) is a little off topic for a blog about the beauty industry, seeing as the vast majority of beauty industry workers are female. In fact, I just spent 20 minutes trying to figure out the gender wage gap for salon workers, and the best I can find is a Bureau of Labor Statistics chart that says 268,000 female “hairdressers, hair stylists and cosmetologists” earned a median income of $413 per week (just under $22,000 per year) in 2009, but that data was not recorded for their male counterparts because there are less than 50,000 male hair stylists in the country (and BLS doesn’t track data on occupation segments that small). This doesn’t surprise me because there is not one male student currently enrolled in all of Beauty U.
So, hooray, the beauty industry has no wage gap, because it has no male employees! Here’s what it does have: A disproportionate majority of male salon owners, male celebrity stylists and male brand CEOs. My favorite would be John Paul DeJoria, co-founder of Paul Mitchell, one of the biggest chains of hair products, salons and beauty schools, who has a net worth of $4 billion.
Yes. $4 billion, while the women who cut hair in his salons and teach in his schools earn $413 per week. Gender gap speaking, the beauty industry is still stuck somewhere in Mad Men Season 1, before Peggy gets promoted to copy writer.
And there’s another, more insidious and more widespread way that the beauty industry contributes to the wage gap: What Naomi Wolf calls “the professional beauty qualification” or PBQ, where all manner of jobs require women to look and dress a certain way in order to maintain their employment.
From The Beauty Myth, pages 52-53:
Urban professional women are devoting up to a third of their income to “beauty maintenance” and considering it a necessary investment. […] The few women who are finally earning as much as men are forced, through the PBQ, to pay themselves significantly less than their male counterparts take home. It has engineered do-it-yourself income discrimination.
There are so many things wrong with this picture, the Paycheck Fairness Act can’t begin to correct them all. But it will strengthen current laws against wage discrimination, ban retaliation against workers who disclose their wages, and allow women to receive the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subject to discrimination based on race and national origin. So you should tell your Senator to support it.