Racial equality has long been an issue for beauty. Products geared toward Black people are often merchandised in separate shopping aisles, sometimes kept under lock and key; marketing doesn’t always reflect the diversity of the overall consumer base, and the in-store shopping experience leaves much to be desired.
As the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum following the brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the call for change grew louder, among consumers and industry players. Sharon Chuter, founder of Uoma Beauty, for example, challenged beauty brands to reveal the number of Black employees and leaders in their organizations, while companies like the Estée Lauder Cos. and L’Oréal committed to meaningful change.
Beauty Inc wanted to better understand how brands are changing their everyday operations to reflect the Black Lives Matter movement, and asked The Benchmarking Co. to conduct an industry-wide straw-poll to find out how important diversity is to them and why.
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“The immediate impact of the movement is evident,” said Denise Herich, cofounder and managing partner of The Benchmarking Co. “Nearly three-quarters of respondents feel that it’s important to diversify their workforce, with a sizable number of companies already committing to changes across departments.”
Consumers are a key driving force behind this change — brands are getting the message that inclusivity is increasingly a baseline expectation. The bottom line finding: “Three-quarters of brand executives feel that the 2020 BLM movement might or will affect real change, and they’re making plans to act on that commitment across multiple departments,” Herich said. “They understand that there is an expectation from consumers for change, and it’s heartening to see that many brands are already stepping up to the challenge.”
The majority of the respondents (57 percent) were from independently owned brands, with 38 percent from big companies. The respondents work in all different areas of the business: 28 percent in management, 20 percent in marketing, 13 percent in product development, 12 percent in sales and 9 percent in communications.
In terms of company size,
42 percent of respondents have fewer than 50 employees
21 percent have more than 10,000
10 percent have 100-500
7 percent have 501-1,000
4 percent: 1,001-5,000
6 percent: 5,001-10,000
The majority of respondents don’t have a diverse workplace. Here, the percentage of Black employees:
Under 10%: 45 percent of respondents
11-25%: 25 percent of respondents
26-50%: 11 percent
51-75%: 3 percent
76-100%: 6 percent
I don’t know: 10 percent
Leadership positions are also lacking in representation. The percentage of director-level and above employees are Black?
Under 10%: 67 percent of respondents
11-25%: 10 percent of respondents
26-50%: 7 percent
51-75%: 1 percent
76-100%: 6 percent
I don’t know: 8 percent
Importance of Diversity:
On average, using a one to 10 scale, respondents ranked the importance of diversity as an eight out of 10, with 71 percent saying that it is “very important.”
In light of the Black Lives Matter and social justice movement, on a scale of 1-10, how important do you feel it is to diversify at your company?
10: 51 percent
9: 9 percent
8: 11 percent
7: 5 percent
6: 3 percent
5: 8 percent
4: 1 percent
3: 3 percent
2: 2 percent
1: 7 percent
When asked why, the number-one answer was that it’s the right thing to do.
- It’s the right thing to do: 70 percent
- Our brand needs to be a leader in social justice for change: 65 percent
- We need to reflect our consumer base: 60 percent
- We need the Black perspective in every part of our offering: 57 percent
- It will ultimately make our brand more relatable to all for higher sales: 41 percent
Just over half of all respondents, 54 percent, have set goals in terms of the number of Black employees they would like to hire, but fewer are participating in Pull Up for Change, the movement which asks companies to disclose the percentage of Black employees in their overall workforce and in leadership.
38%: Not participating
34%: I don’t know
The majority of companies that are participating are doing so because they “care greatly about diversity” and “want to reflect their consumer base.” The top five reasons for those who aren’t participating:
- We don’t want to hire based on a quota system.
- We already have a diverse staff and leadership.
- We have other more pressing issues to take care of right now.
- It’s not important to management.
- The Black community is not a big part of our customer base.
Brands recognize that the composition of their workforce is important to consumers, with 73 percent saying they believe the beauty industry will be held accountable by consumers to achieve more diversity. When asked why consumers might care, the top three answers were:
- Consumers want to make sure they’re buying products from an enlightened company.
- Consumers want to see themselves mirrored in our workforce.
- Consumers want to see justice/change.
Direct Impact on Business
The Black Lives Matter movement has had an impact on how brands are approaching different aspects of their business, particularly around marketing, social media and product development.
57 percent are planning on altering their marketing materials.
32 percent aren’t sure.
10 percent are not planning on any changes.
The top four ways they will alter their marketing are:
- Enhance the tone and message of our marketing materials to reflect a more inclusive message.
- Include more Black women/men in ads.
- Include more Black women/men in our e-commerce/web site.
- Hire Black marketing leaders to better connect with the community.
The majority of respondents work with Black influencers (65 percent) and models/ambassadors (80 percent), and 60 percent are planning on changing their social media messaging as well. The top ways they are doing so is:
- Communicating our brand’s ongoing efforts to diversify our workforce and support the BLM movement through donations, scholarships, etc.
- Enhance our tone and message to reflect a more inclusive approach.
- Include more Black people as social media leads.
- Include more Black people in social media imagery.
In terms of product development, 45 percent of respondents are planning on changing their approach as a result of the BLM movement, primarily by including more Black people as product development specialists and creating a more robust product pipeline.