September 06, 2007

Pink Cadillacs: Femininity Redefines Corporate Culture

author_janis By Janis Prince Inniss

I never thought much about businesses--how they are run, or how to get one started until I started dating a business owner and started learning more. Since then I have been intrigued by the “science” of business and have even entertained fantasies about getting an MBA someday. 

Recently, I was able to postpone doing some household chores by reading an article about Mary Kay Ash. Ash built the Mary Kay empire by selling cosmetics door-to-door. The businesclip_image001[1]s grew from sales of $198,000 in 1963 to $2.25 billion in 2005! Yes, that’s billion, with a B. In addition to this eye-popping financial success, there are many other interesting things about the company that Mary Kay Ash created. For example, according to the company website, Mary Kay Inc. employs more than 1.5 million women in more than 30 markets worldwide. 

What I find particularly intriguing about Ash’s story—apart from the rags to riches component—is that she ran her company like a woman—or rather, she elevated traits associated with femininity to a corporate culture, creating a “pink” corporate culture. Before reading that article, I had never thought much about corporate culture—the way you conduct business—and certainly not about the relationship between corporate culture and gender. I know that in the U.S. money is green and thought that people made gobs of it in the same way—save for the particulars of their specific industry. But a pink corporate culture was surprising.


The Mary Kay motto is God first, family second, and career third. Surely, this prominence of God in a company is unusual. However, I think that the entire motto was designed to resonate with women—and the company’s billions suggest that it does.. Ash created a company that she saw as a unique business opportunity for women. This is an interesting take on gender socialization – it does not debate male/female differences and similarities, nor examine the nature/nurture debate. This position accepts certain traits as feminine and, with that debatable assumption as a starting place, develops a corporate culture that reflects these characteristics. 

In western cultures, girls are often socialized to be communicative, family focused, to play nice, and to focus on relationships. By comparison, boys are often socialized to be tough, aggressive, and solution-oriented. Therefore, with women as the target employees (and consumers), it is no surprise that Mary Kay emphasizes the flexible nature of this “at home job” that allows women to focus on family ahead of their jobs. Playing nice? The company uses the Golden Rule as a guide: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

The company focuses on cooperation instead of competition, and places a heavy emphasis on recognition, demonstrating the relational aspect of the Mary Kay corporate culture. Women at Mary Kay do not only receive financial compensation, they get recognition as they head up the pink corporate ladder. In fact, recognition is a major focus of this company; in what is apparently a unique tactic in the business world (and some might argue life!), Mary Kay offers recognition for a job well done. In your own work life, how much recognition have you received? Have you wished that your boss would acknowledge your efforts?

For example, before her death in 2001, Ash would issue invitations for high performers to accompany her on trips. Apparently, Ash was known for paying close attention to her many employees. At the annual “Seminar” which draws about 50,000 consultants, the most successful beauty consultants are honored in film clips. The ranks of saleswoman, sales director, and national sales director are celebrated each year. In 1969, the company awarded top five Independent Sales Directors with a Cadillac. Mary Kay is so identified with femininity that the coveted Cadillacs are pink, a color highly associated with females (the recent trend of men wearing pink ties and shirts, notwithstanding). The company uses the color for its name, on its website, and in its catalog. 


This business model uses femininity as a contrast to masculinity and in the process reaffirms the idea that masculinity and femininity are two mutually exclusive and contradictory categories. In reality, we live more nuanced lives than this kind of either/or thinking suggests. 

Keep in mind, for instance, that although they are in the minority (and somewhat of a secret), there are men who sell Mary Kay cosmetics. In fact, the current President and Chief Executive Officer, as well as the current Executive Chairman of Mary Kay, Inc. are men; yet they appear to be able to keeclip_image006p the pink corporate culture going. This reminds us that “femininity” and the traits we often associate with women can be adopted by men and even valued. It looks like “pink” culture can bring in the green.


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It's interesting that so many "new economy" companies have adopted similar cultures and policies. Many of companies that are consistently on "best 100 companies to work for" lists have policies that traditionally appeal more to women than to men: flex time, on-site daycare centers, dry cleaners that come to the office, etc.

I think it is very interesting how Mary Kay take into account all of the features and aspects a woman cares for. I love the motto, "God first, family second, and career third." Usually that is every women's motto. I also see how it relates to women with the Golden Rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." That is what everyone, man and woman, was taught at a young age. It can relate to both men and women. Men can run a female company and that is clearly shown with Mary kay. With gender socialization, we are taught women control make-up, but here we see men are capable of dealing with make-up, too.

I enjoy working as a Mary Kay Beauty Consultant and encouraged any woman to come to a meeting to see what it's all about. I have become more proud to be a woman since I have joined and feel enriched! If anyone wants more information, go to my website.

It's interesting to read how successful Mary Kay Cosmetics has become by simply embracing femininity. It's funny that the Current President, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Chairman of the company are men. Even though gender socialization teaches us that only women should control a feminine company like this, men can break those early learned guidelines of their gender.

Very interesting story, on how Mary Kay started from nothing and now the company is one of the largest beauty products line all over the world. This also shows that woman can also achieve whatever she wanted to fulfill. Been using their products for years now and have been buying whether it is a cosmetics sale or not.

hmmmm. Male or Female you can take the world by storm. Woman target women they know what they want not saying men don't also know. We all know in the america men are not going to push make up hehehe but this also shows you how when are good business women.

I think that this is a very interesting story about Mary Kaye because I didnt know how much sucessful Cosmetics and how long its been going.

Wow,Go Mary Kay! I think this is a wonderful article.I am thankful that today women can be proud of being who they are and that women have came so far. Also thank goodness today companies cater to women.

I think it is very interesting how women can own there own business based on women products. It proves that women can do it to and be successful at it.She redifined corporate culture because she ran her company like a woman—or rather, she elevated traits associated with femininity to a corporate culture, creating a “pink” corporate culture.

Mary Kay Ash helped redefine corporate culture by just being a successful business woman. Because she's a woman...Boys and girls in western civilization have completely different cultures and views of sociolization.

Mary Kay Ash redefined corporate culture by incorporating the feminine needs into a business. Girls are taught to be more social, nice, family focused, and relationship focused. Boys are taught to be more aggressive, tough, and solution-oriented.
I think in all situations boys are taught to be tougher even from birth. The differences in how people treat baby boys and girls.

Ash redefine culture so that women could have a job while not forgetting to be there for their families. You have a job that you can work around your family and that does not require you to stay away from your family for long periods. In western cultures females and males have to different roles. The women basically have to be at home and be nice and take care of the little but important things however the man is mean and brings the income.

this was interesting!! i didn't know cosmetics have been around that long

I truley enjoy being a Mary Kaybeauty consultant. i have contributed greatly to my families income by selling cosmetics. i truly love that my companies motto is god first, family secons and career third. and the recognition is awesome. i have never worked at a job were i got a prize for doing my job! our weekly meetings are awesome as well. you get fabuloous girl time and wonderful education while enjoying your job! check out my website for more information.

Mary Kay Ash helped redefine corporate culture by showing the world that it is possible to keep God in their lives, to be able to be a mother and have a job. Most people think that women don't have what it takes to be in a corporate setting as something other than a secretary. Mary Kay Ash helped people see that women could be able to have a family and still work. Boys, as stated in the article above, are treated to be like "men," to be tough and not to cry. Whereas women are raised to be like a "lady," to be able to cry in sad moments, to be giving and never pushing.

Mary Kay Ash redifined corporate culture by feminizing it. She took and made the color pink and made it a symbol for her company. Mary Kay used her moral background and allowed it to work for her success. She made sure that she put God first, her family second, and her job first. She payed attention to her workers and awarded them for the good jobs that they done. In the cooperate world, men are more solution oriented and competitive. Mary Kay Ash used the way females interact in the cooperate world for her company's advantage.

Mary Kay Ash established a company surrounding nothing but women and she redefined the usual corporate culture into the "pink" corporate culture. She was a bold woman, and established that into all that she done or was an idol too. Girls and boys are definitely raised to be total opposite; however, back years ago, it was the "mans" position in the family to take care of family, protect, feed, hunt, build, ect.. Men are raised to be tough,whereas, women were raised to be ladies, and take care of children, household chores, cooking, and assisting in gardens, ect. These days women have independence, and the pleasures of having a family with equality.

She kept it by installing a personal business relationship when people bought her cosmetics. Boys and girls are similar by working together in a company. Boys are suppose to do the tough work and the girls are suppose to do the office work.

Since the time we are little we learn that certain colors are more male or more female. Pink is an example of a color that is considered more to be a female color,but it is good that today many men are not afraid to wear pink because they shouldn't be afraid to. Woman could relate to the company more then men could because it was geared toward women and Mary Kay became successful. Mary Kay understood what was important to women when business was more focused on men.

I didn't know that mary kay was such a success

I'm not surprised at the success of the company because of the overall appearance of the company. Women are interested in a company with a motto and culture that defines a lifestyle such as the one Mary Kay portrays.

Mary Kay Ash redefined corporate culture by not putting work as a number one priority. Most jobs, although not often stated or confirmed, require a job be of the upmost importance. This was not the case for Mary Kay Ash. She also gave great rewards for a job well done and gave appropriate recognition, unlike most jobs.

Boy and girls are different in western cultures in that girls are often socialized to be talkative, friendly, family focused and orientated, and relationship focused. By comparison, boys are often socialized to be tough, aggressive, and solution-oriented.

Mary Kay redefined coroporate culture by make up. She showed that no matter what culture you are there is something for you with her coorperation.

It really suprised me to learn that mary kay was such a huge success. I did not realize that Mary Kay was such a large international company.

Mary Kay Ash turned the normal corporate culture into the "pink" corporate culture. She feminized corporate culture and centered her business around nothing but women. She used the way women communicate and interact to help her business thrive. While men are more goal or solution oriented than women, Mary Kay focused on her workers and rewarded them for their hard work.

Mary Kay was not ashamed to be a woman. She chose to have her priorities in order with God first and putting others above yourself. Any business would be a success when placing these as top priorities. But she did it as woman and was no inhibited by demonstrating feminity in her business.

Mary Jay brought the color pink into the corporate world. In western cultures, girls are often more communicative, family focused, to play nice, and to focus on relationships. By comparison, boys are often socialized to be tough, aggressive, and solution-oriented.

Mary Kay used her moral background and allowed it to work for her success. She made sure that she put God first, her family second, and her job first. She payed attention to her workers and awarded them for the good jobs that they done.

i will say the people i see but on make up talk more of mac but Mary Kay focused in on happy worker work harder.

Very interesting story, on how Mary Kay started from nothing and now the company is one of the largest beauty products line all over the world. It is funny how the president and the chairsmen are all men.

Mary kay is a great example of how to run a sucessful bussiness without back biting or power struggle. Employees are treated well and are notice. Which makes them performed even harder for the company. Instead of a cold heartless corporation you have a christian base run bussiness. Another christian base corporation is chick-fa-lay. They also impower their employees by various self-help programs and scholarships.

It is very interesting how Mary Kay started to been nothing and now is the largest company of the beauty products. I feel like it was a great article because women can be successful in that kind of work.

Mary kay redefined corprate culture by feminising it. She really showed that it was possible for a woman to keep on track with her faith, her carreer and her family withouth dealing with role conflict. I thiong choosing the "Pink" color as a symbol for her company, she emphasis the values in the woman.
In wesrtern cultutres, Boys are though tobe strong,solution oriented, agressive, while girls are to be caring, meak, , family oriented and opened to communication. Mary Kay aassociated this virtues in her motto " God, Family, Creer"

She elevated traits associated with femininity to a corporate culture. Untraditionally method of using feminie ways and sticking with it. Boys are kinda let go and live by the phrase boys will be boys. Girls almost always are given a lot of attention. Either way Mary Kay is an amazing person and her life is inspiring.

Mary Kay has been very successful and she has rewarded her employees very well according to their hard work. It surprised me to find that she didn't make work the number one priority.

I believe mrs. Ash business is so successful because of the motto. God should always be first in whatever we do, I came very close to selling Mary kay when I was 19 now I'm 25 I wonder if I would have gotten a pink cadilac

Good job Mary Kay! I love this. I think it is absolutely wonderful for women to stand up for their rightd and who they are. This isn't 1932 anymore. We can be proud for what we have accomplished!

She turned the need of cosmetics into a business. The boys are trained to be hard working and tough. The girls are taught to be loving and "mother-like."

Everyone has heard of mary kay and avon, but what about arbonne? Few people have heard of it and its not as saturated as the others. I think mary kay and avon both are over rated, and over priced. However I also think that they know how to advertise and sell their product very well. Those companies attract buyers and investors by their signature such as the pink cadillac's and etc. It's not about the product quality or price, it's about getting that pink have always wondered how those people have prospered so well at the business. I tried selling arbonne and getting that whie benz, but i couln't sell a boat to a drowning man. More power to ya if you can do it, because I never could. However you should still check out arbonne. It's a great company and they give you $900 extra a month to pay for that benz of your choice. They have been around for about 25 years now.

Mary Kay Ash redefined corporate culture because she brought a women's touch to it. She made sure that her values were intact. She centered her company around things that were important to her and other women.. She made sure family came before her work. She also put God first. We teach little boys that they should be tough and only play with cars and baseballs. We teach girls to be nice and sweet and play with dolls. It is not ok for men to sell beauty products or put your family before your career.

Well it is well known that Ash redefine culture so that women could have a job while not forgetting to be there for their families. You have a job that you can work around your family and that does not require you to stay away from your family for long periods.

This was a great article filled with facts. I was surprised to see that Mary Kay has been around so long, and have had as much success as she had. You can tell that she appreciates all of her workers. Very good article.

Mary Kay Ash turned the normal everday corporate culture into a feminine "pink" corporate culture. Her business revolved only around women. She took one of the masculine care and painted it pink to prove a point that women are just as equal in the work force as men.

From the time we are born we learn gender socialization, even though we don't know it. many probably don't realize that the cosmectic field turned feminism by Mary Kay Ash. She took gender socialization and used it to her advantage.

It is amazing how a man can run a woman's company and up held the company's logo about god first then family. I have seen women that have sold mary kay and was placed in 3 pink cadillacs. The women started out poor then enriched there lives after they started selling mary kay.

I think its empowering how girls were at one point always told that men were better, and more powerful, and that they would always be incharge. But MaryKay took this and challenged it. She went from nothing and is not very sucessfull. She took the gender socialization and proved it wrong.

She is now very successfull* not not very successful.

I think the idea of Mary Kay making so much money by being feminin is truly amazing! Women are part of the minority, but with a job so supportive and successful as Mary Kay, women are able to embrace their feminism in a more confident way. The way Mary Kay has redefined the corporate culture is definitely a very big inspiration to women everywhere.

You innovated a very smart sales/marketting technique that minimizes advertising and maximizes a interpersonal sales technque. The so-called door-to-door sales has servived and thrives in this company.

This article goes to prove that sex discrimination is disappearing. Women can do the same jobs that men can do, and in some instances they can even do it better, and more efficiently. Women are taught by gender socialization their "duties" as women. Going against this norm is proving not to be a bad thing at all. That company is inspiring, and the details should be made known to more.

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