A Hit Job on Mary Kay

I wanted to take a trip down memory lane. Seven years ago, a damning article was written about Mary Kay in Harper’s magazine called The Pink Pyramid Scheme. If you’ve never read it, you should. Did it make an impact on Mary Kay? I’m not sure. MK’s numbers have been dropping for years, but it’s unclear what the cause is.

One Mary Kay defender was upset by the article, and had this to say on the business page of the author, Virginia Sole-Smith.. Tell me what you think of what she has to say in the comments below.

I can’t help but feel that you have used your platform to do a hit job on Mary Kay to gain attention for yourself. It is the lowest form of sexism to marginalize women by making them look stupid for taking a chance on themselves by trying something new and minimizing the impact of Mary Kay and the wonderful things it has done for so many. I have written the following letter to Harper’s:

Although I am appreciative that the experience that Virginia Sole-Smith had as an Independent Beauty Consultant with Mary Kay was a disappointing one, her article “The Pink Pyramid” went a little overboard in its caustic analysis of the Mary Kay business. I have made a good living doing Mary Kay for the past 28 years. Our business is not for everyone, but I have always believed that the women (and men) who decide to take the plunge and start a Mary Kay business are always a courageous bunch and deserve to feel good about themselves regardless of the outcome of their efforts.

What her article lacked was the proper context. Becoming a Mary Kay consultant is just like any entrepreneurial business. 90% of all businesses started in the U.S. fail within their first year. Most businesses started require some kind of cash outlay, and the main reason most fail is undercapitalization. The amount of cash needed (but not required as the author pointed out) to fully capitalize the Mary Kay business is a very small amount compared to the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions that other small businesses need to have a decent startup. And unlike almost every other business out there, if a Mary Kay consultant purchases some inventory, and then they decide that the business is not for them, they have up to a year to send all of the inventory purchased back to Mary Kay Inc., and the company will buy back the product for 90% of what was paid for it. One would be hard pressed to find any other startup business with that kind of safety net. This fact was not mentioned in Sole-Smith’s article.

My other concern about the article is the way that it criticized women in the most sexist of stereotypes, slamming the women in Mary Kay for the way they dressed, and playing on the cultural meme that women are less intelligent, just two of many examples of subliminal and more obvious sexist slams that weaken the premise of this article. We are a country where women have not progressed nearly as much as people think. The U.S. ranks #78 in the world in female representation in government (Interparliamentary Union stat), only 2.8% of the Fortune 1000 companies are headed by women, and women still make only 77 cents on the man’s dollar. There are many reasons for this state of affairs, but one of the major ones is that we haven’t as a nation resolved the work/family issues that plague working women. There is renewed talk these days of whether women can have it all and the Mary Kay business is one of the few opportunities that comes closest to allowing women to have their cake and eat it too. I know because that is the life I have lead for the past 28 years raising my family on my own terms and making a wonderful income while doing so.

Ms. Sole-Smith, you should have also taken the time to speak to more of the people who have been successful in this business and given them more attribution in your piece. By not doing so, your piece is nothing more than a saga of sour grapes.

8 Comments

  1. BestDecision

    No, that’s incorrect. Watch any episode of The Profit and undercapitalization is never the problem. People spend way too much money but don’t CORRECTLY and EFFECTIVELY run their businesses.

    For example, a Court of Sales qualifier has had the capital to buy all that product, but it doesn’t mean she’s profitable or with a large enough margin to be considered successful. A Director local to me bought her Court ring every year, yet she wasn’t even driving a company car. She brags and brags, and her accolades read pretty impressively. Yet, she is a fake because she hasn’t run her business AS A BUSINESS or kept track of her net profit.

    When I left, this was one of the very reasons I couldn’t leave fast enough. These people with these mindsets are little girls playing tea and dress up. I’m now back in my career with the big girls, big salaries, and big benefits. Happy!

    1. PinkTruthSavedMe

      Completely agree! When I was 21, I spent my entire savings to get the biggest package because I was conned into thinking that’s what I needed to be successful. I was never really taught any actually business skills and so my “business” tanked. And instead of getting support from my director, she shut me out because I wasn’t on top anymore. $20,000 gone in three months. Now I’m 24 and making $50,000 a year in a corporate job. I get praised for my work and rewarded for it. I hate how they make it seem like being in corporate America is a bad thing. I’m now able to pay my way out of my debt and rely on a consistent paycheck without begging my mom to buy products so I can make rent.

  2. PeachyNotPink

    It is the lowest form of sexism to marginalize women by making them look stupid for taking a chance on themselves by trying something new and minimizing the impact of Mary Kay and the wonderful things it has done for so many.

    My other concern about the article is the way that it criticized women in the most sexist of stereotypes, slamming the women in Mary Kay for the way they dressed, and playing on the cultural meme that women are less intelligent, just two of many examples of subliminal and more obvious sexist slams that weaken the premise of this article.

    1) There was nothing sexist about the article. Definition of Sexism: prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex. In fact, I though the author handled the stories of IBC’s negative experiences quite neutrally.

    2) The author of the Harper’s article is not marginalizing women nor did it criticize women or portray them as less intelligent. She is truthfully relating her experiences and the experiences of others. Telling the truth is not marginalizing. In fact, it is MK who marginalized women through lies, deception, and manipulation. If you feel criticized by the truth, then you should look very closely at your conscious.

    The extreme sensitivity to this article makes me think it really hit home for the critic and she’s resisting the urge to look honestly at her own behavior and that of MK.

  3. Neverpink

    “My other concern about the article is the way that it criticized women in the most sexist of stereotypes, slamming the women in Mary Kay for the way they dressed, and playing on the cultural meme that women are less intelligent, just two of many examples of subliminal and more obvious sexist slams that weaken the premise of this article.”

    Where? I’ve read the article twice and didn’t find a hint of sexism anywhere. Where was the sexism? Please link the portions you think are sexist.

  4. Char

    “What her article lacked was the proper context. Becoming a Mary Kay consultant is just like any entrepreneurial business.”

    Let’s talk about proper context. Say, a magazine publishes an article about children being disappointed that Santa isn’t bringing them gifts this Christmas. Then, I write in and explain the weather has been bad for Santa’s travel, and the elves went on strike. You know, Santa can’t please everyone.

    Mary Kay is NOT A BUSINESS for consultants. Her entire critique of the article is based on the FALSE PREMISE that it is. This renders all her words inapplicable as they don’t address the reality of the situation. (Santa isn’t real, therefore the elf strike explanation is nonsensical)

    Furthermore, her statement that, “I have made a good living doing Mary Kay for the past 28 years,” stops short of how she accomplished that. When you apply the facts that MK is a pyramid scheme i.e. endless-chain recruiting, the conclusion is that she has made a good living via pyramid scheming. This further reduces the critic’s credibility.

    Back to Santa. I could go into greater detail about the weather and global warming, the living conditions of the elves, and whether there was equal pay for female elves. The more detailed I get about my senseless argument, the more trapped in the conversation one could become. This is the slight of hand con artists rely on.

    Bottom line, Mary Kay is not a business for consultants. They are silly MLMers buying tons of product from MKC, and recruiting others to do the same. Any comparison to a real business is completely irrelevant.

  5. Mickey2942

    Success in MK is not about selling the product, it is about getting other women to buy a sales kit.

    When I buy a car, the salesperson doesn’t try to get me to enroll in selling cars too!

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