Reprint of Article, Stylist and Salon Newspapers, California Edition.
Raising the Professionalism of the Beauty Industry
Have you ever been cited for an alleged violation that you knew in no way undermined the safety of your clientele? Have you had the unfortunate experience of moving from one state to another, negotiating the bureaucratic maze of that state’s licensing agency?
Were you ever frustrated with your schooling experience, wondering why you had to waste time repeating skills you had mastered while left in the dark about other information that could’ve better prepared you for your career?
All of these challenges and frustrations arise from the actions (or inactions) of your state representatives and regulators; not Congress and the federal government, and not your local (i.e., city/county) agencies.
In fact, most of the laws and regulations governing the beauty industry are set at the state level. This means if you want to advocate for the industry that you love, you ought to be setting your sites there.
As many of you are aware, a few states have recently considered deregulating and removing licensure. Those that reached the level of introduced legislation were, happily, met by a concerted chorus of opposition by beauty professionals. In one state, the outcry was so loud the legislative author pulled his bill from consideration before its first vote.
But this brush with unlicensed activity should serve as a wake-up call for industry stakeholders and behind-the-chair professionals about how much a bad state decision could negatively impact us all.
A more effective means of advocacy is to be present on the front-end, heading off such disruptive proposals before they ever see the light of day. Such a presence requires constant effort, the credibility and influence that comes with it justifies the ongoing work that is done to stay active and “in the face” of policymakers, their staff and regulators.
And by having a constant presence in your state regulatory affairs, industry stakeholders can play on the offense-side of the political equation — where they can effect positive change, not simply playing defense in reaction to what others may attempt to do to our industry. Proactive state-level advocacy is much stronger … and in the end easier … than reactive mobilization.
While every state has a different political landscape – some with part-time Legislatures, others meeting year-round, some with boards solely dedicated to regulating beauty while others share oversight responsibilities for several various industries – the fact remains that state governments set licensure and educational standards.
Every policy reform initiative or regulatory proposal must go through a series of public hearings. Supporters and opponents have many opportunities to speak their minds. If their arguments are cogent and they speak with a united voice, industry leaders can positively impact the proposal as it makes its way through this publicly accessible process. They will also be in the position to be a resource to policymakers and regulators, often given the chance to weigh-in on proposals before they are ever formally introduced.
So, an integral part of actively engaging at the state level is to have committed “boots on the ground” within each state. If your particular industry sector (e.g., stylists, salon owners, schools, etc.) already has a state organization in place, join it and help raise its sites and influence its mission and agenda. If none exist, spearhead an effort to form alliances with like-minded professionals, develop clear principles and policy-oriented goals that all industry sectors can embrace, and then make sure someone is present at each stage of the legislative and rule-making processes to articulate those principles.
In California, where we have over 450,000 individual licensees and over 40,000 licensed salons, we were able to pool our resources to retain professional representation for such public hearings and behind-the-scenes advocacy. In smaller states, these lobbying duties will likely fall upon the individual stakeholders.
Many national-in-scope industry stakeholders have seen the light as to the importance of impacting state regulations. They have committed themselves to assisting industry professionals within each of the 50 states to organize, so that all of us can be speaking with a united and strong voice where most of the relevant legal and regulatory action happens.
If you are passionate about beauty; if you are committed to raising the professionalism of this industry; and if you want to make a real difference … get involved with a state association of like-minded colleagues and jump into the political arena with both feet!