Is the Nail Salon the New Golf Course?
After finding out how her best friend got her nails done with clients as a form of account management, an Australian TikToker named Simona has sparked a conversation about femininity and professionalism. In the minute-and-a-half video, posted on December 1, 22-year-old Simona, who goes by Sim on the app, says that her first reaction was to judge her friend, who recounted the many meetings she has taken with clients—on her company card—while getting acrylic nails applied.
“I was like ‘this is unprofessional and doesn’t count as work,’” says Simona in the video that has racked up more than 150,000 views. “And then I’m like, ‘Who really defined and outlined these arbitrary rules around what work is?’ Men.”
She goes on to describe her shift in perspective, comparing nail salons to golf courses. “And what men are doing? Men are playing golf,” she says, adding that the lightbulb moment got her excited about how workplace culture and ideas of professionalism are starting to shift as more women take up positions of power in the corporate world.
Other TikTok users applauded the move in the comment section. “I’m in sales and take clients to get their nails done,” one user wrote “It’s perfect because you can have business conversations while being all girly pop.”
Another said they’ve hosted flower arranging, macrame and pottery classes. “We get to define what’s professional,” they wrote.
Leslie Andrachuk, the director of digital marketing at The Health Insider in North York, Ont., says she has similarly made the decision to host client meetings in spaces where she is most comfortable. In her case, it’s often on a ski hill.
“Our traditional, patriarchal professional structures need to be torn down and rebuilt to include people other than white cis males,” says Andrachuk. “These days the boardroom meeting is something of a dinosaur anyway… I think the last time I was in a boardroom was in 2018, so why not hold meetings in the spa or on the beach?”
Andrachuk has even conducted a business meeting while nursing her baby, she says. “For so long, it was a career-limiting move to be open about having people to care for (like partners, children or aging parents). You just sucked it up and kept the stress to yourself.”
According to a LinkedIn article by founder of Human Workplace, Liz Ryan, career-limiting moves often play out “as a warning to people who are about to do things somebody higher up the food chain doesn’t like,” or don’t want to nurture because it doesn’t prioritize business goals.
Andrachuk explains that golf games, for example, can take hours, and for many women this kind of networking is simply off the table because it makes caring for children or loved ones difficult.
“By expanding how we do business we’re not only supporting women in their careers, we could also support a new way of leadership that enables people to live their authentic lives fully and completely, while also building a career,” says Andrachuk.
How to shift the culture of professionalism?
One of the key factors that could ultimately shift the culture of professionalism is having more women and people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities in leadership positions.
Data from Statistics Canada shows that, overall, women hold just over one in five director positions and there have only been modest increases in the representation of women in executive positions from 2019 to 2020. According to the StatCan report released in May 2023, women held a bit more than one fifth (20.5 per cent) of the 17,996 seats on boards of directors in 2020. This was a slight increase of 0.3 per cent from 2019.
Data also shows that most boards (59.7 per cent of 5,810) had only male directors. About 28 per cent of boards had one woman director, while 12.3 per cent had two or more women directors.
“I would hope that having more women at the top would shift the culture… but what we don’t want to do is just have a bunch of white women at the top and actually have women of different ethnic backgrounds and religions,” Andrachuk says. She explains that companies need to focus on prioritizing diversity and inclusion in their hiring practices if meaningful shifts in corporate culture are to happen.
She also points to how policies, like Ontario’s November announcement introducing legislation requiring employers to include expected salary ranges in job postings, could ultimately help recruit more women and diverse groups by helping them make more informed decisions.
Andrachuk says women often have a challenging time negotiating more money for themselves because there’s a stereotype that ambition is not feminine and is an “ugly trait” for a woman to have. Salary transparency would help remove this stigma.
“It is ridiculous because women also need to be financially independent. There’s no reason they should earn less money than the man right next to them who’s doing the same job,” she says. “So that transparency I believe is very important…because how long have we toiled away without achieving parity in our salaries?”
Simona told Canadian Business in an email that she’s not surprised that her video got so many views and comments. “I think a lot of people are excited about the change we can facilitate at work. So much of the traditional nine-to-five has been turned on its head as a result of the pandemic, which I know leaders globally are still really hesitant to embrace,” she says.
She explains that the disruption of the traditional ways of working has allowed people to question the norm.
“To be completely honest, I also enjoy how uncomfortable it makes the people who perhaps sat as the benefactors of the traditional model—in this case men,” says Simona. “I love exploring these concepts on my TikTok account and all of the comments that continue to come through are genuinely really interesting to me.”