International Women’s Day might be celebrated on March 8, but its importance spreads far beyond a single calendar date. To celebrate this year’s campaign, we’ve surveyed our professional database to highlight the importance women play in the barbering industry. We’ve also spoken to a number of our favourite female barbers to get their views on the industry they’re taking by storm.
There are more female barbers today than ever before
Our UK barber database is packed full of talented clipper and scissor spinners; many of which are female. In fact, our most recent survey showed a 14% increase in female barbers since 2015 – climbing from 10% to 24%.
On the improving statistic, our PR and Marketing Manager Nick Gibbens said: “I remember the days when barbering was a male-only industry and female barbers were few and far between. Over the last few years we have been working hard to promote gender equality in the industry and the signs are looking positive. There is still so much more work to be done, but if the industry pulls together then I see no reason why these figures won’t continue to climb.”
The female barbers that are taking the industry by storm
Sophie Collins, 28: Owner of Soph’s Barbershop, North Wales
When our ambassador Sophie Collins first started out in the industry, friends and family warned her about the lack of balance between male and female barbers. Thankfully, her character and talents shined through.
“People close to me said that barbershop owners would never employ me because I was a woman. They suggested I’d be better off just sticking to women’s hair. After finishing my qualifications, I started applying for positions in barbershops in my local area. But nobody would hire me. I remember thinking that maybe my friends were right.
“Luckily I’ve never been short on self-belief, so rather than waiting for others to accept me, I decided to open my own barbershop. I faced many challenges in the first few months. The most upsetting was the amount of men that would see my barber pole, walk in to my shop, see that I was a woman, and then just leave.
“But things have certainly improved over the last few years. I think the increased standards of barbering and changes in men’s attitudes are fuelling this. I very rarely receive comments about me being a female barber anymore; my male clients quickly discovered that I can still entertain the same conversations they’re used to getting from their barber and that, ultimately, they still leave with a great new haircut.”
Samantha Hall, 25: Barber at Hamilton’s Barbers, Cornwall
Samantha Hall joined the barbering industry three years ago – right in the middle of the industry’s boom. Like many, she has experienced sexism in the industry. But her tenacity to share her talents has helped her to show her regular customers that skill has no gender.
“Customers used to make comments before I’d even picked up my tools. They’d joke that they’d never had a woman cut their hair and that they were trusting me to do a good job. As if I wouldn’t?
“Some men would even refuse to sit in my chair. I remember a grandmother bringing her grandson in for a haircut once. She made a point of saying that she wanted to book an appointment with a male barber. Why? Because the grandson’s dad had told him that only men cut men’s hair.
“As time’s gone by, I have earned the trust of my regular clients and the opinions on female barbers are starting to change for the better. Today, I receive mostly positive vibes for being a woman in the barbering industry and I mainly put this down to the fact that women are seeing other women succeed. I take a great amount of confidence from this because it proves that gender simply doesn’t matter as much anymore.”
Josie Jackson, 29: Head Barbering Educator, South Devon College
At one point, Josie Jackson felt like giving up on her barbering career. But her determination has seen her excel to a position that allows her to educate the next generation of barbers. What’s her most important lesson? Not to judge a barber on their gender.
“It’s been one hell of a challenge getting to where I am today. I’ve been in the hair and barbering industry now for 10 years and there have been many times when I’ve felt like giving up. I’m so glad that I didn’t because my career has gone from strength to strength. I’m so blessed to be a part of this industry.
“About six years ago, I found the barbering industry massively sexist. During my first barber job the majority of my clientele were older men who had a very traditional view on the barbershop experience. A lot of the time, when I asked my next customer to step up to the chair, they would do their best to stall and wait for one of the male barbers to be free. But as soon as you get some of your work in front of their eyes, sit them in the chair and show them you’re just as good as a male barber, it totally changes their outlook.
“It always confused me because, ultimately, whether you’re male or female, you have the aptitude to learn a trade. It’s only fair that you’re then given the opportunity to practice that trade and amaze people with what you can do.
“As an educator, I’ve seen so many female barbers coming into the industry recently which is really exciting. They all embrace barbering and show just as much passion as the men. On some of my courses, there are now more female participants than male.
“I’m very proud of my role at South Devon College as it allows me to make sure that the next generation of barbers are heading into the industry with an understanding of equalitarianism; it’s important to me that they are not judging the ability of their peers on gender.”
Amy Jenkin, 25: Barber at Hamilton’s Barbers, Cornwall
In the build up to her first stage performance, Amy Jenkin faced the awkwardness of misidentification when it was assumed that her partner – a tattooed, bearded man – was the professional barber in their relationship. Below, she rightly points out that barbering is no longer just a boys’ playground.
“I’ve been in the barbering industry for six years and I’m sad to say I’ve had countless experiences of discrimination. The worst came when I first received an opportunity to work on stage.
“As I entered with my partner, who was acting as my model at the show, I was met by an excited shout: ‘Now here’s a barber!’ I smiled – quietly proud that someone had recognised me for my profession – but then realised the kind comment was directed at my partner, not me – he’s a tree surgeon and has never touched a pair of scissors professionally in his life.
“That being said, I do believe that more and more women are joining and influencing the barbering industry. And this in turn is influencing how men perceive things. This influx of female talent is the result of strong role models and impeccable skills and proves that women do in fact have what it takes to be barbers.
“It’s not just the boys’ playground anymore. Just because we have different body parts doesn’t mean we’re incapable of cutting men’s hair. Gender should never affect someone’s ability to cut hair.”