As a society we are constantly learning and, in turn, understanding more about ourselves and our fellow human beings. We are fortunate enough to live in a time whereby people are free to be their most authentic selves, and it is our responsibility to ensure that everyone feels empowered to do so.
Salon owners are in a unique position to harness their position and foster an inclusive environment for both staff and clientele, regardless of how they identify, that places emphasis on acceptance and openness.
Constantly striving to create a salon environment that empowers all? We’ve spoken with a series of experts and industry insiders, expert in building an inclusive salon space.
- EDUCATE YOUR STAFF, AND YOURSELF.
Constant education for both salon staff and owners is key in building an inclusive salon environment. “The main message for salon owners is to have open conversations with staff about language use related to sex, gender and sexuality,” explains Dr Lisa van Leent, Senior Lecturer at Queensland University of Technology. “Owners can lead discussions with staff on how language reflects on meaning in everyday conversations such as greetings and salutations, and in specific contexts like bathroom use as part of their everyday work in the salon.
“Collectively, they can ask questions about and reflect on assumptions based on sex, gender and sexuality, and brainstorm alternatives together – build a culture of expectations and practices that are developed from within.”
PALOMA Salon Owner & Director Paloma Rose Garcia is passionate about ensuring her salon remains an inclusive, welcoming space and points to continued education as a pivotal place for change. “The most important thing is ensuring ongoing staff education, because you’re always going to have a variety of different people coming in and out of your team,” she explains. “You could have gender fluid people working for you, but then you’ll have others that just aren’t privy to that sort of conversation.
“Personally, I worked with a communication specialist on ensuring my team was up to date with what was happening regarding gender around the world, what movements we were seeing, what was going on and where we’re at.
“That’s essentially what it comes down to. Constant education, because if you’re not doing that, you’re behind. I think there’s a level of responsibility that all salon owners have in keeping their team up to date in this space.
“Just because someone looks a certain way, has nothing to do with how they identify internally. The two sometimes intersect and reflect each other, and sometimes they don’t. If we keep this in mind, we can avoid gender stereotypes and misgendering a whole lot more.”
2. PROMOTE AN ENVIRONMENT THAT PRIORITISES INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE
“Language is integral to understanding the world and cultural ways of being, knowing and expressing ideas,” Dr Lisa van Leent continues. “The language we use reflects cultural values and ways of understanding sex, gender and sexuality.
“In English, we tend to revert to a two-gender system even though we have English language that reflects a broader understanding of sexes, genders and sexualities. However, the language is evolving and making its way into everyday households.
“For example, when thinking about ‘sexes’, many people would think of female and male and yet intersex people make up approximately 1.7% of the population in Australia.
Why is inclusive language in the salon so important? As Dr Lisa explains, “Intersex people have always existed, yet the term is relatively new in everyday communication in Australia. Language is important to reflect reality and when words are deliberately omitted and hidden from everyday use, then the more commonly used words get normalised. This process can impact on the way people understand the world and themselves, so it is very important!”
3. REMOVE THE ACT OF ASSUMPTION FROM YOUR SALON ENVIRONMENT
Misgendering is unfortunately still commonplace, with a tendency for assuming gender or lack of education surrounding gender identity typically to blame.
“Just because someone looks a certain way, has nothing to do with how they identify internally,” respected beauty writer, published author and LGBTQIA+ advocate Deni Torodovic explains. “The two sometimes intersect and reflect each other, and sometimes they don’t. If we keep this in mind, we can avoid gender stereotypes and misgendering a whole lot more.”
For PALOMA Salon, it’s about removing traditional male and female labels from the salon and instead referencing guests by name. “You’ve also got to take responsibility and get clear about what your brand stands for, and how you approach genders in the team,” explains Paloma. “For us (at PALOMA), we don’t have gender specifications around servicing. It’s not male haircuts or female haircuts, it’s haircuts. We also don’t assume gender when we are referencing our guests – they are our guests, and we’ll address them by their first names. You really cannot assume anyone’s gender.”