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How many famous female hairdressers can you name?

By Sophie Robehmed
BBC Woman's Hour


Vidal Sassoon, Trevor Sorbie, Charles Worthington. Just a few high-profile male hairdressers whose names will, more often than not, ring a bell, if only for their range of styling products that sit on the shelves of shops up and down the country.

But, given that women make up 88% of the industry, why is it a struggle to name any ladies in the spotlight?

image copyrightKarine Jackson
image captionGreat hair - but was the stylist a man or woman?

"We're there," Karine Jackson, chancellor of the Fellowship of British Hairdressers, told BBC Woman's Hour. "There's lots of us there. It's a million-dollar question, I get asked it all the time: where are the women?

"I think we just don't brag enough. It's not in our nature to brag. We're doing a great job. We've got great businesses, we're running shoots, we're travelling the world educating, we're just doing it."

Yet while women might be achieving all these things, they were nowhere to be seen on the shortlist for the prestigious British Hairdresser of the Year category at last week's British Hairdressing Awards.

"Women are being nominated but they don't get enough [nominations]," says Ruth Hunsley, editor of Hairdressers Journal.

"While the top 20% [of hairdressers] may be men, they couldn't be where they are today without the women behind them.

"So while you might have a hairdresser on the television, he has somebody behind him running his salons and very often that is a woman. He's got a business partner, and very often that is a woman."

image copyrightDaisy Jane White
image captionDaisy Jane White wants more female role models

Daisy Jane White, 20, has been working in hairdressing for five years after starting off as a "Saturday girl" while she was at school. She says it is "quite scary" that there aren't more female role models who are known outside of the industry.

"It makes me lack faith if people, who have been in hairdressing for years or who are amazing at their job, can't get to be big stars. How will I ever be able to do it?" she says.

"I think there should be more female hairdresser inspiration for young women like me to follow in their footsteps."

media captionRuth Hunsley and Karine Jackson discuss women in hairdressing with Jenni Murray on Woman's Hour

Fifty-three-year-old Kerry Hayden has nearly 35 years of experience in the industry. "The reason that there are more famous male hairdressers is because the focus is always on women's hair and historically, women prefer men to cut their hair," she says.

Why is that? Karine Jackson talks about men being able to make women "feel great", while Ruth Hunsley says, "there is that little bit of flirtation, they can tell you how sexy you are, how beautiful you are," which could be contributing factors.

Kerry Hayden specialises in men's hair. When she started out, there were very few women barbers.

She says that she had to deal with huge prejudice from other male barbers. "I was extremely lucky to have a boss that believed in me and wanted me to succeed in pursuing my dream," she says.

image copyrightKerry Hayden
image captionFemale barber: Kerry Hayden says she faced prejudice when she started out

Nicky Clarke has been working in the industry for more than 40 years. He became a household name in the 1990s as the stylist of choice for rock stars and royals and everyone in between.

His haircare product line and electrical range followed the launch of his Mayfair salon, while his face regularly popped up on daytime TV.

He is adamant that nothing needs to change at the top. "It's about people's personal ambitions," he says. "The structure is there to do what they want. It's the least elitist business - there's no glass ceiling - it's based on talent. It's special and unique in that way."

Although Clarke admits that branding and babies can play its part in career progression, too. "Owning a salon, certainly if you have a brand, I think those are the two areas that are going to bring you a wider audience.

"It's very similar to the way chefs work - you get your superstar chefs, some of them can be women but most are men probably. I don't think there's a deep psychological reason why. Maybe men have more energy because they're not giving birth, as awful as that sounds."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionNicky Clarke built his brand in the 1990s - a time when hairdressing was high in the public consciousness

Does Clarke have a point? Does having children and flexible working hold women back in terms of making it to the pinnacle of the industry?

Although actual figures for part-time working in hairdressing are hard to come by, in the UK's overall workforce, far more women work part-time than men - about 42%, compared to 12% of men, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Joanna Hansford is the managing director of Jo Hansford salon, the business her mother started 24 years ago.

As a mum of two girls, she started working three days in the office in the salon premises in Mayfair and one day at home in Hertfordshire. She believes working flexible hours doesn't stop you from succeeding in the industry, but you need to have a solid base to begin with.

"I think hairdressing is one of the best businesses if you're planning on having children in the future," she says. "But you need to be established - it helps so that your clients stay loyal to you, so it is harder at the beginning of your career."

image captionKarine Jackson (left) and Ruth Hunsley say women don't get the same recognition as men

Karine Jackson says there are successful women in the industry who have launched their own ranges, even if they're not covered in the media.

"There are women out there like Tara Smith, who have products out there," she says. "Why they don't get the same kudos, I've got no idea because they are out there and they're dealing with the press.

"We work with the beauty press, but they seem to push the men forward. Yet the magazines that they're in, the whole magazine is about women, women's rights and things like that and you get to the beauty section and it's men."

Listen to the full discussion on women in hairdressing on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

Related Topics

  • Women in business
  • Hairdressers
  • Fashion

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