Finding out how beauty works

With growing recognition of the beauty industry’s contribution to UK plc, a major survey sheds light on how it functions

You need more than a ‘pretty face’ to be really successful in the beauty industry. As president of CEW, Cosmetic Executive Women, in the UK for 19 years, I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. I have seen with my own eyes, beauty progress from being seen as lip-gloss, to a business recognised by the UK government.

I have worked in the business for 50 years. I did not go to university and with no formal business training in 1962, at the tender age of 20, I started my own public relations company with my first client, Marlborough Dresses. Later I launched Ralph Lauren’s first two fragrances, Polo and Lauren, in London, Donna Karan’s beauty and fragrance line, Eternity for Calvin Klein and Frizz Ease with John Frieda, among many other projects.

But what I want to highlight here is the workplace and specifically women in beauty. I employed women straightaway, and I looked for people who were enthusiastic, self-motivated and presented themselves well. They also had to have a great general knowledge and I was always keen on them having a life outside the office, to keep us all abreast of what consumers wanted and were doing in their spare time. I felt I could sell anything and they also had to learn how to sell, which is not a bad skill for anyone to learn. In essence they were what you would call generalists.

But running a very successful business with international clients, I often wished there was an organisation to network with and senior women from whom I might learn. This is why I did not turn down the opportunity in 1996 to become president of CEW UK, an organisation founded in New York in 1974, out of the desire for women to meet and discuss the business of beauty. Today we are a global organisation with offices in New York, London and Paris, and we have 8,000 members, including many men who work in the industry – a recent and very welcome addition to CEW UK.

Education, recognition and philanthropy were the cornerstones of the organisation, and these remain the same today. CEW UK flourished because there was little formal business training within beauty companies, but CEW helped to supplement this through its educational programme and popular mentoring series.

Changing perceptions

I do believe CEW helped change perceptions of the beauty industry and today the government has come to recognise what an economic powerhouse it is for the UK. So much so that last October, Chancellor George Osborne hosted a reception at No 11 Downing Street for CEW members to recognise our contribution to the economy and to the export market.

Confident staff say they were attracted to the industry because it is exciting and dynamic, with a ‘newness’ and product innovation

‘Our beauty industry is one of the best in the world,’ he said. ‘It brings in billions of pounds and accounts for a million jobs. It’s time we recognised this enormous contribution to our economy.’

It wasn’t only a coup to be at Downing Street, it got us thinking; we realised that we needed more information about the people beauty employs today. We wanted to know what makes the, mostly female, employees in the beauty industry tick, what employers look for and what gaps there are in the market in the booming beauty business.

This led to CEW’s collaboration with Beverley Radford, vice president of executive search and global accounts at 24 Seven, an award-winning global talent agency. Canvassing the CEW UK  membership, we gathered the views of the beauty profession across all sections of the industry and the result is CEW and 24 Seven’s UK Beauty Salary and Job Market Report, a first for the UK.

Listening to the industry

What did we find for people who want to enter the industry? 2015 seems to favour job seekers as the market is ripe with opportunity. Confident staff say they were attracted to the industry because it is exciting and dynamic, with a ‘newness’ and product innovation. With talent in the driver’s seat, top priorities were remuneration – no surprise there, we all have bills to pay – followed by training and career development.

Although this survey relates to the beauty sector, I am sure our findings will resonate with lots of companies outside the industry. After all, we can all learn from each other.

Also found in Beauty Opinion