“Paving the Way for More than a Century”

By: Lezlee Westine, President & CEO, Personal Care Products Council

A major political party nominated the first woman candidate for president; what better time to celebrate the numerous important contributions of women, not just societal and political, but also their significant impact on American business. The Personal Care Products Council represents some of the most beloved and trusted brands in beauty and personal care today. Some of the names are well known, but their backgrounds may not be. The history behind these iconic and emerging brands shows how women have empowered other women for more than a century.

Early in the 20th century, Elizabeth Arden opened her first spa and began to build one of the first global beauty brands. She was a staunch advocate for women’s rights and led a suffragette march with 15,000 women wearing red lipstick as a symbol of strength. During World War II, Arden developed cosmetics for women serving in the military and became one of the first women to be featured on the cover of Time magazine.

Annie Turnbo Malone was the daughter of escaped slaves and orphaned at a young age. She was so fascinated with hair and hair care that she practiced hair styling with her sister. Malone developed her own hair care products for African-American women and by the 1920s was a multi-millionaire.

Sarah Breedlove, who would later become Madam C.J. Walker, transformed herself from a farm laborer and laundress into one of the 20th century’s most successful, self-made female entrepreneurs. In search of a treatment for a scalp ailment that caused her to lose much of her hair, she experimented with many home remedies and store-bought products. She founded her own business and began selling a scalp conditioning and healing formula. She traveled throughout the South and Southeast selling her products door to door, demonstrating the products in churches and lodges, and developed new sales and marketing strategies. She is considered the first woman self-made millionaire.

Mary Kay Ash took what she learned from a successful direct sales career and wrote a book to help women survive in a male-dominated business world. She made a list of companies who had “done it right.” When she looked at the list she had compiled, she realized she had created a marketing plan for a new company — one that provided “women with open ended potential and financial success.”

These and many other women paved the way for those who would benefit from the economic and social contributions of the personal care products industry and strong data tells the story. Our industry continues to pave the way for economic empowerment. The Personal Care Products Council commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to measure the industry’s economic and social contributions using the most recent available government data. Of particular note, our industry supports a diverse workforce and creates jobs, opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses, and empowers women of all backgrounds to help them reach economic independence.

The workforce is primarily comprised of and run by women, exceeding national averages in other sectors. In fact, women make up 62% of the total workforce and hold nearly 53% of management positions. The diverse workforce includes women of all backgrounds — women of color make up 16% of our workforce. These women are industry leaders, accounting for 11% of all management positions, compared to the national average of 8%.

Our industry represents the best of American ingenuity and success. With companies of every size, products to meet the needs of a diverse population, and a commitment to safety, quality and innovation, the personal care products industry is a leader in supporting opportunities to help women succeed.

Lezlee Westine is the president & chief executive officer of the Personal Care Products Council, the leading national trade association representing the global cosmetic and personal care products industry and is based in Washington, D.C.