From a Stylist’s Point of View

A Christiansburg stylist provides her opinion and outlook for the wage gap between men and women in her industry.


Photo by NeONBRAND

By Christian Millsaps |

Gillian Nichols is a stylist and the manager at Inside Out Salon in Christiansburg, Va. She got her Cosmetology License from Christiansburg High School in 2018 and has been working professionally since. 

Millsaps: What does it mean to you to be a woman?

Nichols: “Being a woman to me means being the world’s best multi-tasker. Being able to handle a full-time career, social life, and carrying a baby/ raising a family,

“We have beautiful gifts unique to us, and it helps to motivate us even more to work as hard as we can to provide for ourselves and our loved ones. It also means having to deal with people not having as much faith in you as the opposite gender—a sometimes constant battle to prove that you are just as capable for a job as they are,

“Being a woman is being strong enough to do more than a male knowing full well that they will be favored.”

Was working in a career that is predominantly made up of other women important to you?

“I wouldn’t say that it was important to me to work in a woman predominant field; it just so happened that the career I fell in love with happened to be that way,

“It does bring me joy though, the relationships and commonalities make work life that much more enjoyable. Though I wouldn’t say working with men would change that,

“I just know most men wouldn’t want to sit and talk about most things that women form relationships with. It’s like having many extra sisters to share stories with.”

Despite women making up the large majority in your field, men still make more money. Why do you think that is? 

“I believe that men make more money in this field because they are favored by male clients,

“Male barbers are extremely popular, and woman barbers are few and far between. I also feel that a male stylist can charge a higher price and be less likely to have someone argue with it,

“As well as men in this field don’t have to worry about taking time off to take care of children or having to go on maternity leave.”

How do you think equal pay can become a reality? 

“Although I’d love for equal pay to become a reality, I really don’t think it will happen for a long, long time. There are too many factors to keep it from happening,

“First, women have to be respected for who they are. We live in a world where sexism really hasn’t changed at all from the days of women only being seen as housewives and property for men,

“Everyone must be willing to make a compromise in order for equal pay to become a reality. We are too split of a country and world for this to be able to happen,

“Whether for selfish beliefs or religious beliefs, women are always the ones who get the short end of the stick, and I feel we may always be.”

The owner of the salon you work at is a woman, as are nearly 70% of salon owners, and you yourself want to own your own salon one day. Do you think it is easier for men to own businesses even in a field dominated by women? Why? 

“I feel like it’s easier for men to own a business because they only have that to truly focus on, plus I feel they seem more trustworthy by loan companies and other financial places,

“They also tend to have less on their plate to focus on because they have wives to have kids and to focus on them. Women business owners have to think about their employees as well as when they want to raise a family they have to take time for maternity leave which loses the business money, etc.,

“I also feel like people are less likely to argue or test the waters with male bosses compared to females.

Does the pay gap ever discourage or anger you? 

“The pay gap has never really discouraged or angered me because it’s always been there, so it’s not something I truly think about because it doesn’t matter what career you have, the pay gap will always be there, 

“I feel worse knowing that women of other races and ethnicities are paid even less than white women, which further builds a gap that will be even harder to change.”

Graph by Christian Millsaps: Gender Wage Gap in Cosmetology

Do you think, even in 2021, that stigmas and stereotypes about working women and those who own businesses contribute to the gap in pay? 

“I do believe that we are progressing in the conversation of respecting women more in the workplace as well as being business owners. But I still don’t think much of anything has been done to help this because of the wage gap,

“Men ‘run the world,’ so how are we supposed to ask them to give up some of their means to make it a more equal pay. It’s always been a sexist world where women are seen behind men or as property,

“It has to be more than just a conversation about equal pay in order to get something to happen. But it also requires changing minds, as we’ve learned with politics as of late,

“People truly don’t care about other people’s beliefs because they want to bury you under their own.”

Do you think there could be more done from a government standpoint to help women more easily acquire loans and have support if they choose to work? 

“I feel it should not only be support given by the government but support given through the business as well,

“Businesses need to show that they truly care about their employees by being more willing to put money towards keeping the hard-working people who will ensure they make the money to keep the business going,

“I hear all the time that people are expendable, but that’s what happens when you want fast food quality for fast food prices. Why not do something to keep the people that will make you the most profit and high-quality work. Makes for a much happier business.”

Do you feel that women can sometimes be punished for wanting to have children while also pursuing a career and how?

“I know that there are some hair salons that dislike it if stylists want to go to college or even have kids because they see it as them losing money,

“At the end of the day, that’s all the business cares about, whether or not they’re making enough income and less about the person. So women have a very unfair disadvantage when it comes to starting a family, 

“Men are always seen as the breadwinner, whether it’s true or not, so women are always the ones deemed unreliable when at the end of the day, we are just trying to raise our children or stay home with sick kids,

“The mother is usually the one that has to bend over backward to work with children’s schedules. I’m not saying that there aren’t men out there that do, but how many can you truly name? 

“Men are ‘supposed’ to be the ones working while the wife is home with the kids. It’s an old trait we still haven’t left in the past.”

Do you ever feel that you aren’t as respected or get as much credit as a man does in your field? 

“I feel like it depends on the person. Most people are kind human beings who truly don’t care whether it’s a male or a woman who does their hair, but sometimes clients can be picky about how things are done, 

“It’s less about being a male or female stylist and more just being compared to whoever did their hair last. The one field of cosmetology I know women aren’t respected at all compared to men is the barbering industry,

“Women in that industry are seen as a taboo not only by clients, but their male coworkers don’t see them to be capable of quality work at the same rate that they’d be able to do,

“No one cares if a male stylist works in a hair salon, but women are usually not allowed in barbershops.”

Do you have any advice for women getting ready to enter their professional careers and how to deal with unfair treatment? 

“My advice would be to find a place of work where you truly feel valued for your work ethic. A place where you can easily talk to your boss if you have any issues or feel unfairly treated,

“Even if the pay isn’t the same, find a place where you are happy doing what you’re doing, and then you truly will never work a day in your life.”

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