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Journalistic Inquiry at NYU: Blog2
  • Writer's pictureKate Slate

What Women-Led Companies Translate to Their Employees and Customers

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

Recent movements like #MeToo have increased awareness on the discrimination women face in the workplace. Through hostile work environments and negative stereotypes, women are left out of higher-up positions, according to 2016 data collected by the American Association of University Woman. Two women-led businesses however, Glossier and Bulletin, are utilizing their work environments and products as a way to defy these all-too-common workplace dynamics.

Pictured above is Bulletin’s SoHo storefront located at 27 Prince St (left). To the right is an image of Glossier’s flagship showroom located at 123 Lafayette St.

The pink-laden clothing and accessories store Bulletin has grown into a patriarchy-resisting retailer since its Williamsburg opening in 2016. The fuel running the business resides in the female-populated staff and its founders, Ali Kriegsman and Alana Branston, who have worked to curate a safe and supportive environment for both customers and employees alike. Donating 10 percent of storefront proceeds to Planned Parenthood, according to signs located in each location, the brand works to create an environment that caters to the needs of women.

Pictured above is a sign located at Bulletin’s Williamsburg location, the brand’s original storefront, discussing the brand’s mission.

“It’s always sought to be a very comfortable space for women and the LGBTQ+ community,” said Williamsburg brand experience leader Alexa DeLeon of Bulletin’s mission. “It’s just for everyone in general to feel super comfortable about themselves and know that they’re making a difference, because from buying a card to buying a dress you’re putting money toward a very good organization and you’re supporting small businesses.”

The brand’s storefront does not fall short of this mission. Walking into Bulletin’s flagship located one block northwest of Union Square Park, visitors were met with free rosé, granola bars and smalls bouquets of flower in celebration of Mother’s Day over the weekend. To the tune of Cardi B’s “Thru Your Phone,” four employees strutted through the store, two located near the register and the other two at the front of the store handing out refreshments and greeting customers. With the energy of a nightclub though situated in broad daylight, a pair of friends browsed the store drinking their rosé, while three college-aged women rushed in, excited to be a part of the shopping experience.

Refreshments were handed out free-of-cost for Mother’s Day at Bulletin’s flagship location over the weekend.

What is this shopping experience exactly and how does it make for a comfortable environment? In addition to the lively experience shoppers get to indulge in on behalf of brand experience leaders, the items-for-sale speak for themselves. Bulletin storefronts serve as a “wholesale marketplace” for individual vendors, according to Bulletin’s website. By purchasing products made by individual artists, the business and its customers are supporting women in capacities outside of the physical storefront.

“A lot of [the vendors providing stock] are women-owned but they’re also a single mom or a team of two so they don’t have the capacity to open their own storefront or even have enough stock to sell at a bigger place,” said brand experience leader Kylah McNeil. “So this is kind of a way for them to get out there, us to help them out and curate this space for people to come.”

Though sourcing its own product, the beauty-brand Glossier just ten minutes south of Bulletin’s SoHo location aims to accomplish a similar mission in empowering women.

In 2010, Glossier founder Emily Weiss founded the online blog, “Into the Gloss.” There, she interviewed women on the makeup they used and how they used it at a time when it wasn’t discussed, according to a flagship senior editor Suriya Shogren. Four years later came Glossier, a brand of baseline makeup that would eventually build into a makeup and skincare empire, with a showroom located at the cross section of Lafayette and Canal Street in Lower Manhattan. As noted by sales associates, whom are referred to as showroom editors, the work experience cultivated by management resembles that of Bulletin’s.

“We do morning meetings before every shift,” said showroom editor Alexa Frey. “No matter what time you’re coming in, you’re sitting with other people and they’re prepping you for the day.”

Management checks in with showroom editors at the end of the day as well, gauging high and low points in hopes of learning where improvement can be made, according to Frey. If she were to have a customer problem, management would address it at the following morning’s meeting while maintaining confidentiality, added Frey. One editor believes the store’s all-women staff can partially be accredited with maintaining this environment.

“I don’t think I’ve really interacted with any cismen at work as far as my co-workers go” said editor Grace Schmidhauser. “It’s nice to just have a more feminine energy here because we all have this core understanding of each other and you get to connect through the brand too and the brand’s message. It’s a baseline understanding that I think men don’t always have.”

Not only is the environment protective of its employees, but it also cultivates a fun and inviting shopping experience for its customers. Three high school-aged girls could be seen rushing the rubber maroon staircase leading to Glossier’s showroom last Thursday, where they’d be met with a sea of editors in pale pink utility jumpsuits. If music could murmur, that’s the level at which the techno song, “Freelance” by Toro y Moi, played while a mom strolling around her newborn looked at the company’s cloud paint blush and a man with beat-up Nikes wandered around the showroom in need of guidance. Shoppers were met with reflections of themselves in a mirror that partitioned off the sink section of the showroom, with the phrase “you look good” written on it in embossed white letters.

(Left) Three high school-aged girls hurriedly make their way up Glossier’s showroom staircase, one girl exclaiming, “this is so extra,” as she and her friends rushed to the showroom. To the right stands a mirror that customers frequently take pictures with.

One frequent Glossier customer noted that seeing the company’s success has, in that it was founded and is run by women, helped her realize her career potential, according to friend of the reporter, Madison Dietz. “It shows us and the girls buying their products that if we’re really passionate about something, then we can go out and create it ourselves,” said Dietz. “I never felt like they were a company out to make money, but instead doing something they were passionate about.”

Not only do these females aid in creating an inviting showroom aura, but they also subtly promote the message that beauty does not come at the cost of loading one’s face with makeup, another issue surrounding women in the workforce. A sort of attractive bias and halo effect come into play whereby being attractive can impact an employee’s pay, confidence, and social skills amongst other workplace factors, according to a 2016 Business Insider article.

“I think it’s nice, since a lot of the demographic is younger girls, that we don’t really emphasize covering up yourself,” said editor Schmidhauser. “It’s more just about democratizing beauty in the sense that it can be whatever you want it to be and none of us really wear heavy makeup; that’s not the nature of it.” Schmidhauser’s comment was evident in showroom employees, many of whom kept their makeup minimal.

Schmidhauser added that showroom editors are not makeup artists, but are instead associates more concerned about “fostering a human connection over anything.” At both Glossier and Bulletin alike, this human connection is also channeled through the products for sale, which cater to the needs and wants of women in both settings.

With regard to Bulletin, the brand’s storefront is filled with items ranging from clothing to home goods, many of which are printed with phrases or images of empowerment, whether they be hailing from popular culture or paying homage to well-known political figures. Bangles and placards are for sale that read, “God is a Woman” after an Ariana Grande song, and “don’t be a drag, just be a queen,” from Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way” respectively. Located in the store’s Mother’s Day section sits mugs with cartoon-like images of Elizabeth Warren and Michelle Obama printed on them. The products stay true to a unique, zero-tolerance humor that is praised by customers.

Additional merchandise is pictured above at the Bulletin Williamsburg storefront. Candles with celebrity images plastered onto them, coming from a local, Brooklyn-based company, according to DeLeon. Unlike the store’s SoHo location, these candles are the most frequently sold item at the Williamsburg storefront, according to DeLeon.

“Usually I’m not a ‘thing with a slogan on it’ type of person, but all of these I really, really love,” said Liz Migueles while visiting the flagship store with a friend. “It’s kind of dark and very overt humor and I really appreciate it. It’s not like ‘oh my gosh it’s wine o’clock’ stuff.”

Aside from the more want-based items flooding the stores’ shelves, need-based items are available too. At Bulletin’s SoHo location, THINX period-proof underwear is the most frequently sold item, as Bulletin is the only place to carry them in-person, according to brand experience leader Kylah McNeil. This product serves the brand’s goal well, as menstrual cycle-related complications on the job acts as one form of work-related discrimination. One Georgia woman was fired due to mensuration-related complications on the job back in 2016.

Though empowering in nature, the store’s products do come at a cost. Bulletin’s three locations, all of which are in New York, reside in prime real estate areas: Union Square, Williamsburg and SoHo. Despite the fact the store is still considered a start-up according to McNeil, its prices resemble those of an established-brand. One item for sale at the company’s flagship location, a corduroy Sherpa coat, cost $125 before going on sale for the still-high price of $95. At a Brandy Melville located about 15 minutes southwest of the flagship store, customers can purchase similar Sherpa jackets for $45, before going on sale. The store manager at Bulletin’s flagship location, however, says it’s the store experience that differentiates its items from those of competitors.

“When you come in, you’re going to feel good while you’re here,” said store manager Kayla Sanchez. “We’re always going to talk with you and we’re going to talk you up. You may find [an item] somewhere else, but you won’t find this energy anywhere else.”

Contrary to Bulletin’s higher prices, Glossier’s products are more affordable. Glossier was founded on what editor Abigail Thomas referenced as their “core products.” These products are what many would consider the basics of makeup, like eyebrow pencil, concealer and lipstick. The brand’s well-known eyebrow filler, boy brow, costs $16 per 3.12 gram bottle. This is cheaper than one of Sephora’s top-selling eyebrow fillers, made by Benefit Cosmetics, priced at $24 per 3 gram bottle. While prices are reasonable, the brand’s clean, monochromatic aesthetic of light pink has worked alongside them in establishing the brand’s appeal.

Though a needle in a haystack of varying female workplace dynamics, both Glossier and Bulletin alike have cultivated unique spaces and products for customers and employees to indulge in and feel confident through. Through their social-challenging mechanisms, it is possible that with the expansion of said companies, larger companies working to reconfigure their own work environments to lessen inequality amongst genders will take after the two brands.

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