Episode 23: WERKIN with Andrea Pfeffer on pampering and participation

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This week, we’re WERKIN with Andrea Pfeffer, founder of Pfeffer Sal a skincare clinic in Fitzrovia, often touted as a respite from the chaos of Central London. Andrea talked with WERKIN founder and CEO Hayley Sudbury about business, babies, balance, and the importance of washing London off your face each night.

A new model for skincare: experience and education

Before opening Pfeffer Sal, Andrea launched small businesses across fashion, marketing, and PR. While she learned a lot from her previous careers, she found herself “in a position where I'd worked so hard and was actually really unsatisfied. So I wanted to do something that not only made myself feel good and proud, but also made other people feel good.”

Having always been interested in skincare and overall health, the entrepreneur naturally found herself taking notes on what worked and what didn’t in the skincare services she personally used, “I had a lot of disappointing experiences for myself and I felt that the exposure that I had wasn't what I wanted to experience as a client.”

Andrea describes her frustration with the ways in which the beauty industry can attempt to exploit insecurities in order to sell products and services. But as she sees it, “the beauty industry has the most amazing power to make you feel incredible about yourself. It's such a perfect time to celebrate the uniqueness that we all have and to offer a business or a service that has the power to do that.”

She views skincare as not only a service or product, but a form of education such that clients can leave with a better knowledge of their skin and how to care for it. “Our primary objective is skin health through education advice and support, and that's probably the heart and soul of what the business is about.”

To change the model, there is no commission system at Pfeffer Sal, employees are not rewarded for selling products, “I don't want a team of salespeople. I want people making genuine recommendations on how you can improve your skin health without feeling that pressure we all feel when we're being sold to. It's not a great experience.”

Instead, Andrea has sought to create an experience for clients made up of “the little touches throughout the whole space, though we might not shout about them, but that demonstrate the heart and soul and integrity of truly believing in what we're saying.”

Your Business is Your Baby. Your Baby is your Baby.

What’s it like to create that client experience while going through your own transformational experience, say having a baby? As Andrea puts it, “your business is your baby and your baby is your baby. And I continually struggle with the feeling that I'm not giving it enough attention either.” But the challenge of navigating both “definitely teaches you to be much more efficient with your time.” Caring for a baby while growing a business, in many ways for Andrea, has given her focus to give her full self to each dimension when necessary, “having a baby or another little person that actually is your focus enables your headspace,” while switching from business mode to baby mode, “I just need to focus on this other person. It forces you to have a better work life balance and puts things in perspective."

For Andrea, the common skill she’s picked up for both parenthood and entrepreneurship is a strengthened intuition, what she calls “gut intelligence.” Every child is different, but what helps parenting is gaining the confidence to trust your gut. Similarly, “the intuitive aspect of running your own business is so important because you don't have time to sit there and think about one decision for two weeks. So you have to continually make decisions on the fly, and your gut intelligence, is absolutely vital to succeed, whether it's right or wrong, it’s at least moving forward and making a decision. For me I needed to listen to my gut more and when I knew something wasn't right, I needed to follow that.”

Wellness: A Balance of Participation and Pampering

Andrea’s business, Pfeffer Sal, started within a growing “wellness industry.” But what does wellness mean for her?

“It means a balance. Extreme wellness, 10 hours sleep every night; yoga every morning; 20 minutes mindfulness meditation every morning and night; noting down my feelings and emotions in my book on the side of the bed; never having a glass of wine; etc. etc. etc. That's never going to happen. That's not wellness to me. That is stress. But for some people that kind of discipline provides them with a sanctuary and security.

 Wellness to me is equally about participation and pampering. Wellness to a lot of people is about participation. It's about setting very stressful goals and objectives. They have to practice yoga four times a week. They have to do this, they have to do that. Let's take London for example.

 A huge amount of people in London have got a massive amount of participation down pat. We Londoners participate in everything, whether it's a brainstorming session, whether it's an extra two hours at work, whether it's a crazy commute. We know how to participate. That's not the problem. We don't know how to be pampered, and that's where I feel that there's a huge gap psychologically and physically. Pampering that you received from someone else. It could be a treatment, but pampering you also give yourself at home. Now I'm not saying you should have a 45-minute bath. I don't even have time for a 45-minute bath.”

How can you pamper yourself when you don’t have time for a 45-minute bath? It can be as simple as your two-minute, 36-second nighttime skincare routine. Andrea recalls a recent post she shared on Instagram,

“These are the seven products I use in my night routine, seven ‘steps.’ That's, quite high-maintenance isn't it? I timed the routine, and it was two minutes, thirty-six.

That's some pampering that takes two minutes, 36 seconds. That's realistic for most people in London. Wellness to me is a two-minute, 36 routine.”

Happy Parents, Happy Business

Apart from finding her own participation and pampering balance to manage a full life, how can larger institutions support women, parents, and anyone else with caregiving responsibilities to maintain their career progression?

“I have been very fortunate in that I haven't really experienced much gender discrimination in the workforce. I've always tended to always place myself in quite female orientated industries. From my experience of being a mum, what I would love is much greater financial incentives for businesses to set up childcare and support whether that's for dads or for mums. I think you and your business are going to win on so many levels because if you have happy parents, with happy children. Their productivity and their work flow is going to be more creative and more energized.

 Society, which is in the government's best interest, wins because you're opening up opportunity to employ greater talent, a greater pool of people because you're able to offer that support and infrastructure.”

Finally, for those launching a business or a baby or both, what’s the one thing we can do to keep our skin healthy? Remember to wash London off your face.

“Honestly, from a skin health perspective, every night you need to wash your face with a cleanser. The best way to think about it is you're going to bed with London on your face, literally. You have to wash your face. That's number one and number two is change your pillowcase at least once a week. And your face is going to be so happy.

For more from Hayley’s conversation with Andrea, including how NASA air filters can help your skin, the value of tenacity, and how your inner circle of friends can be your most valuable advisory board, listen to the full podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.


Intersectionality and the UK Ethnicity Pay Gap

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How are hiring, promotion and pay rise decisions made? What metrics, and more importantly, what people are assessing the qualifications we have and the work we do? These are, of course, important decisions that will shape our careers and the paths our lives take. So why are these decision-making processes so murky and how do the biases that decision-makers have affect them? It’s well-documented that these biases affect healthcare, justice systems, and even safely buying a cup of coffee. Individuals face the effects of a range of biases, not limited to those based on gender, race, ability, sexuality, or care responsibilities. An intersectional understanding of biases in the workplace is needed to formulate intersectional solutions.

BAME careers are stalling

Missing out on better career opportunities and higher incomes is the norm for the UK’s Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, as shown by the UK Ethnicity Pay Gap.

According to last year’s Race at Work in the UK report, career progression is important to 70% of BAME respondents. Yet more than half of BAME employees (52%), believe they need to leave their current employer to progress their careers. In 2015, this figure was only 49% for BAME employees showing that the situation is worsening. In contrast, only 38% of white employees have this perception.

That the government and non-governmental organisations are prioritising this research is positive, however both sectors must use this data to inform policies that will move the dial on racial inequities in the workplace.

Intersectionality views barriers through multiple lenses

One overlooked area for companies seeking to do better is intersectionality. Coined by leading legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality is a theory describing the interlocking oppressions individuals face based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion and ability identities.

An intersectional approach to understanding and addressing bias matters because BAME employees not only experience discrimination due to their ethnicity, but also for coinciding gender, sexuality, caregiving, ability and age identities. These unique experiences are interconnected and cannot be separated from one another. Intersectionality gives us a language to talk about employee experience in a much more holistic way.

All of us navigate the workplace through multiple identities. We are at once our ethnic background, our gender, our sexuality, our age and our educational background.

What if the road to inclusion were really an intersection?     By W. Sean Kelly, PhD, Christie Smith, PhD

What if the road to inclusion were really an intersection? By W. Sean Kelly, PhD, Christie Smith, PhD

Barriers by disadvantage

Managers must become aware of the ways in which various identities affect each team member and  the unique challenges they face, to understand how best to support them.

Although policy advances in many countries, including the UK, over the last few decades have made it illegal to discriminate based on race, gender, sexuality and ability, these identities still face less overt forms of bias. Workplaces are struggling to tackle hidden cognitive biases, those micro-assessments we all make instantly that we are often not aware of, yet which underpin our decisions.

Intersectionality takes this thinking about the individual as a unique person one step further, to understand an individual as part of a system of identities. Leaders need to learn how to support the multidimensional employee by understanding the intersections of their various, simultaneous experiences.

Common BAME workplace discriminations include:

Exclusion: BAME staff can miss out on critical development and networking opportunities due to unconscious bias. Managers can assist by facilitating opportunities.

BAME team members can also be:

  • Caregivers: concerned about balancing work and family commitments. For example, pressuring parents to work on days they look after children can elevate stress. Flexibility is appreciated by all team members but for caregivers, work and life boundaries need to be respected by managers.

  • Women: can experience the incompetence bias, even when they are highly qualified. Patients, clients and team members can discount women’s professional opinion simply because they are women.

    Women also report more instances of being interrupted and not being listened to by senior managers. These are all opportunities to affect change.Women also encounter difficulties being accepted as a leader. The likeability vs competence penalty means female leaders can be perceived as unlikeable when they exhibit traditional male leadership traits such as assertiveness and authority. Senior leaders can help by being alert to this phenomenon. If you notice a female member of your team losing traction with male employees simply by doing her job, back her up and assert her capability and competence.

  • LGBT: According to LGBT in Britain – Work Report 2018 more than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination.

    One in ten BAME LGBT employees (10 per cent) in the UK were physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year.

“My employer is generally very supportive but doesn’t have a specific LGBT discrimination section in their policies and procedures should discrimination occur. So, if discrimination or harassment does occur – and it does – then they don’t effectively handle things and the LGBT person is blamed for causing problems and being over sensitive.”

Mollie, 51

To state the obvious, all employees, regardless of their gender, sexuality, religious orientation or ethnic background deserve to be treated with respect at work. Managers need to develop awareness of the multiple strands of discrimination that can affect each of their employees daily and guide and support them through each stage.

Intersectional invisibility

Studies of intersectional oppression show that people facing multiple discriminations will be subjected to more prejudice and discrimination than those with a single subordinate identity. This thesis is supported by wages, job authority, and occupational status findings for people with intersecting subjugated identities.

Emotional intelligence

Psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of Working with Emotional Intelligence sees empathy as the “antidote” to issues that arise in cross-cultural interaction. Managing with empathy enables leaders to read a situation and evaluate the sum of cultural differences and potential misunderstandings based on those differences.

The objective is to avoid one further cognitive bias: fundamental attribution error. This error of judgement attributes team member behaviour to their personality (such as aggression, sensitivity or laziness) rather than the situation and system they find themselves in.

Here is an example of how this cognitive bias can further undermine employees:

“A lot of black graduates come in and they don’t last long, because they don’t get mentored. One of them didn’t have a car and he was taking two hours to get in. It was: ‘Oh, he’s lazy.’ People use that to alienate the black graduates.”

Esther, BAME worker

Really getting to know your team members means asking them about the challenges they encounter at work, beyond the main points of difference such as ethnicity. Their top of mind concerns may pivot at different stages in their career and may be exacerbated by their BAME experience, rather than led by it.

Identifying how and when employees require support and then providing it, is the mark of an inclusive and diversity-aware manager. Over time, this conscientiousness can shape professional environments that are more aware of, and ultimately less plagued by endemic biases hindering the career advancement of BAME employees. This work can open up access to senior executive positions for these employees and ultimately close the ethnicity pay gap.

WERKIN helps global organisations support the careers of their employees through inclusive mentorship. WERKIN’s approach opens up access to mentorship for underrepresented employees at large companies. Through mentorship, junior employees gain support and the ability to see themselves in role models at the top.