by Laura Colby
Originally published: September 6, 2017
In his first assignment for L’Oréal, Rob Imig spent 10 months pitching a shue uemura lipstick to beauty editors across the country. The editors—all women—often reacted with confusion or amusement. “The reaction was a bit startled sometimes,” says Imig, now a 13-year veteran of the company. “The beauty business is dominated by women. They thought it a bit odd that a guy named Rob was coming to show them a new lipstick.”
While big companies around the world are striving to improve the gender balance of their workforces, most are focusing on hiring more women. But for L’Oréal, balance means attracting more men. The €25.8 billion ($30.6 billion) French beauty products company has been a pioneer in the push for gender equality, regularly earning awards for its efforts. Women manage 58 percent of L’Oréal’s brands and hold almost two-thirds of executive positions. In 2017 the company ranked first in Equileap’s annual ranking of 3,000 global corporations on their progress toward gender equality.
L’Oréal has been so successful at developing a reputation as a female-friendly workplace that women job applicants flock there. One result: Last year, 77 percent of new hires were female. Therein lies a problem. “They have a huge gender gap,” says Jonna Sjovall, managing director for the Americas at Universum, which ranks the most desirable employers among business and engineering graduates worldwide. In its most recent tally of U.S. employers, L’Oréal was No. 9 for women business graduates but only No. 150 among men.