With diversity being top of mind for more salons and businesses today, we spoke with experts on how to create a more inclusive and welcoming salon environment for clients and staff.
Canada is surrounded by a vast array of different cultures and is a melting pot of diversity. So it goes without saying that diversity should also be reflected in every aspect of the beauty industry, from staff and clientele to products and services. However, the lack thereof continues to be a challenge.
“There are a lot of people who experience aggressions in this industry that can contribute to them feeling marginalized, minimized and simply unwelcomed,” says Erica Courdae, a salon owner and diversity, equity and inclusion coach based in Maryland, U.S. “I’ve experienced things as both a stylist and as a client. I think part of what’s happening is that there isn’t enough normalizing of diversity in the industry.”
Learning and Understanding
According to the Canadian Equality Consulting (CEC), a small social enterprise that offers workplace assessments, consulting, strategies, action plans and policies, diversity goes far beyond what meets the eye. “Diversity is understanding, accepting and valuing the differences between people,” says Yasmin Arnaout, lead of digital marketing for the CEC. “Inclusion is making everybody feel heard, accepted and welcomed. It’s designing things to remove barriers, discrimination and intolerance.”
Nancy Fonseca, senior vice president at Great Place to Work, an organization that helps businesses create a safe and welcoming workplace for all, says it’s important to assess and evaluate your business to recognize and address any areas that require growth or improvement.
“Get a deeper understanding of your team, the services you offer and the products you carry,” she says. “This will allow you to get a deeper understanding of what you may be doing well in, and where you may be lacking in relation to inclusion and diversity.”
“You have to evaluate whether or not your salon, staff and environment is safe to bring people in so that they can exist there, receive services, and understand that their hair will be cared for, and that the things that make them who they are will be respected,” adds Courdae. “Check in with your company culture and whether or not diversity is actually fostered there. Identify what diversity means to you, your salon and your team.”
Trust is Key
After an initial diversity assessment, Fonseca says it’s important to understand that trust plays a very large role in workplace diversity.
“Trust is what drives a lot of that openness to diversity and inclusion, and really helps people feel like they belong,” she says. “Those concepts include credibility, respect, and how those things are demonstrated in the workplace. Diversity and inclusion are on the path of trust; people need to have a basic level of trust with colleagues and management first.”
“A diverse and inclusive work environment cultivates a culture of belonging and trust for everyone,” adds Arnaout. “It provides safe spaces for employees, encourages varying perspectives, and practices psychological safety.”
Working with Staff
When starting or advancing your diversification efforts, it’s important to keep your current team informed. “Some staff members may be unaware that they make comments that can be offensive or upsetting because they’re not understanding the environment that the salon owner wants to create or maintain,” says Fonseca. “There’s no harm in getting your whole team to do the training together. It will be helpful to make sure that the staff is treating everybody, from co-workers to clients, respectfully at all times.”
While some harmful comments or biases may not always be obvious, Arnaout encourages salon owners to start with training to “prevent any microaggressions rooted in biases against marginalized groups to ensure that your staff isn’t causing any harm to customers. Everyone has biases, and while we can’t get rid of them, we can learn how to recognize them and minimize the impact they have on our work.”
“From sourcing, recruiting and assessment to application review, interviewing and reference checking, there are always things you can do to make the process inclusive,” says Arnaout. “Be objective and standardize the interview template with the same questions. Focus on skills and requirements. Pay attention to cultural biases in interviewing. Set diversity goals and highlight that you’re an equal-opportunity employer while committing to not discriminating against employees.”
Although some salon owners may feel that hiring a diverse team can be a challenge, or may wonder why applicants aren’t more diverse, there are some things they can do to help. “It has a lot to do with the way we brand ourselves as an organization to the outside,” says
Fonseca. “Use visual components in the advertisements you’re using so you’re demonstrating diversity. Identify and distinguish yourself in the marketplace as being a diverse and inclusive workplace that’s open to having a mix of people coming together.”
Products and Services
“You have to have services that meet the needs of a diverse community,” says Fonseca. “Demonstrating an interest in diversifying the services offered makes a lot of sense. The more services you offer, the more diverse your clientele will be.”
“Offer training for stylists so that customers feel like they can come in and they don’t have to go searching for people who can work with their hair texture,” says Arnaout. “Finding the right kind of education may be a challenge but from an owner’s perspective, management has to help find or provide that education for their employees. Finding funding in the salon to help their staff train would also be great.”
“Offer and specialize in services for all hair types; hair is not one-size-fits-all,” she adds. “It would benefit the team and clients to offer a wide variety of services to serve all clients’ needs. Products should also reflect all hair types and textures, so clients don’t have to try so hard to find the right products for their hair needs.”
Erica Courdae has more than 20 years of experience as a salon owner and coach, and is the co-founder of Pause on the Play, a podcast that facilitates conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
Yasmin Arnaout is the digital marketing leader for Canadian Equality Consulting, a firm that offers diversity training and coaching for businesses.
Nancy Fonseca is the senior vice-president at Great Place to Work Canada, a workplace accountability organization that offers consulting and a certification program for businesses.
Once you’ve increased diversity and inclusion in the salon, it’s important to bring that to other areas of business, including your social media platforms.
“Your company’s social media should be a reflection of the diversity in your salon, team, services, education and how you spend your money. It should be reflective of your diversity efforts offline, and if it isn’t, ask yourself why you’re doing it. To give yourself a certain appearance online that is different than how you’re running your business offline?” — Erica Courdae
“Intentionality is one of the biggest pieces that is often missing. You can’t say that you welcome diversity but all the hair you portray on social media is only of one ethnicity or hair type. If you’re building a diverse workplace and want
to attract a diverse clientele, then you need to align the images you put out and the language that you use. The images need to represent the client but also the skill set of your employees.” — Nancy Fonseca
“YOU HAVE TO ASK YOURSELF, ‘ARE YOU DOING THIS BECAUSE IT’S GOOD FOR OPTICS OR BECAUSE IT ALIGNS WITH YOUR VALUES?’ YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE IT’S SOMETHING THAT ALIGNS ACROSS THE BOARD AND IS NOT JUST A BOX TO CHECK.”
— ERICA COURDAE, SALON OWNER AND DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION COACH, MARYLAND, U.S.