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To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, we asked Mintel analysts across our global offices to highlight one woman in their industry who they feel personifies this year’s theme of Choose to Challenge.

Sharon Chuter – Founder of UOMA Beauty

Roshida Khanom, Category Director, Mintel Beauty & Personal Care (UK)

While ‘diversity’ has become somewhat of a buzzword in the beauty industry over the past year, a name that really stands out as being at the forefront of inclusivity and making sure that it doesn’t become a passing trend UOMA Beauty founder Sharon Chuter.

Sharon launched the ‘Pull Up For Change’ and #PullUpOrShutUp campaign in summer 2020 calling on beauty brands to disclose the number of Black employees they had, including those at the corporate and executive level. While posting black boxes and tagging #BlackLivesMatter draws attention to the issue of inequality, it is not enough to really make a difference. The campaign called on brands to be more accountable from the inside out, and also called out brands that have profited from Black culture and Black people, but had lagged behind when it came to being inclusive within their organisations. Within 72 hours of starting the campaign, a plethora of beauty brands and retailers, including L’Oréal and Kylie Cosmetics, revealed their statistics and those without Black people in leadership roles promised to do better.

This year, Sharon has launched a petition calling on Merriam Webster and Oxford English Dictionary to update their definitions of ‘black’ to remove its associations with negativity. The campaign has partnered with beauty brands to create limited editions of iconic products to honour blackness.

Sharon is no stranger to racial bias, having faced many barriers as a Black woman launching a beauty brand celebrating inclusivity and self-expression. UOMA translates as ‘beautiful’ in Igbo, a language spoken by the Igbo people of southwestern Nigeria. The brand’s ‘Say What?!’ foundation range goes beyond shade to target the specific skin concerns of different skin tones, while its Badass Icon Matte Lipstick collection is named in honour of influential Black women.

Pimradaporn Benjawattanapat (Pimrypie) – Online merchant and influencer

Pongsanguan Jiradechakul (Woon), Senior Research Analyst, Consumer Lifestyles (Thailand)

When being socially responsible has become just a tick on a checkbox for many organisations, some people just feel the urge to do it naturally – like Pimrypie, a 30-year-old influencer who recently debuted as an online merchant.

Pimrypie became popular for her bold, strong, and straightforward personality as an influencer. Starting with selling everything from chilli paste to cosmetics through livestreams on her online channel, Pimrypie gained a reputation for using language that is direct but sincere to engage with her audiences, who she won the hearts of by being real and honest. Today, she has over 3 million subscribers on her YouTube channel.

Not just selling goods, Pimrypie is also known as a charitable person. On Children’s Day, in January 2021, she released a video clip of her giving a donation to underprivileged kids in Omkoi district – an area 300-kilometre away from Chiang Mai, which has fallen behind other parts of the country economically. People there live in poverty, without electricity, and education is out of reach. Pimrypie donated THB550,000 to provide solar cell panels, shoes, vegetable patches, and a big-screen television. Her aim is to bring them exposure to the outside world which, hopefully, would inspire them to dream big and do great things in the future.

Her action stirred up conversations about the deep-level of economic and social inequality in Thailand. Not only did this provoke discussions about the authority’s action to improve the quality of life for Thai citizens, but also forced us, as individuals, to have a moment to reflect on ourselves and ask: “What have we done for society and what can we do for others?”

Pimrypie is also an audacious example of self-expression. Her newly released music video “Yaa Na Ka,” meaning “Don’t,” tells how difficult her life has been and shows that she does not care about the negativity others have for her.

Pimrypie’s actions are a call out for people to respect themselves. She is a woman who gives inspiration not just to women, but anyone from all walks of life, to embrace themselves and do good things for the world.

Caroline Cotto and Claire Schlemme – Founders of Renewal Mill

Melanie Bartelme, Global Food Analyst (US)

Caroline Cotto and Claire Schlemme founded Renewal Mill to transform byproducts of food production into nutritious and valuable ingredients. They started with okara, the pulp leftover from pressing soymilk, and have worked with other eco-minded companies to get okara into finished foods, like woman-owned Pulp Pantry’s upcycled Pulp Chips. Since the company’s launch, Cotto and Schlemme have also produced a range of consumer-facing products, from cookies to baking mixes. It can be difficult to convince consumers to try new things, and Renewal Mill has used Instagram masterfully to show viewers how delicious the company’s flours, mixes, and finished products can be.

What’s more, Cotto and Schlemme have used the platform to amplify the missions of other like-minded businesses. In December of 2019, Renewal Mill created a visually impactful “Advent calendar” on its Instagram feed, with each “block” featuring a giveaway from other small food and drink companies, such as woman-owned Kuli Kuli moringa. In its latest move, Renewal Mill used its position to spotlight an issue near to the founders’ hearts: climate change. The company’s new packaging, which launched in 2020, features weather-inspired designs that “are meant to more clearly connect food waste reduction and climate change prevention for consumers.”

Djamila Ribeiro – Social activist, writer, and philosopher

Amanda Caridad, Senior Beauty and Personal Care Analyst (Brazil)

In light of social movements that have gained strength during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brazilian beauty and personal care brands will be challenged to serve dark-skinned consumers – many of whom are still neglected – who represent relevant and strategic potential in Brazil, which is known for its ethnic diversity. According to the Mintel Trend Driver ‘Identity’ and its underlying pillar ‘Heritage,’ consumers see their cultural heritage as an important part of expressing their identity in society.

Attuned to the relevance of this topic, the brand O Boticário partnered with the Brazilian social activist, writer, and philosopher Djamila Ribeiro on a mini-series entitled “How to be Antiracist” in November of 2020, (Black Awareness Day is celebrated on November 20 in some Brazilian states). The mini-series is divided into four episodes and Djamila discusses structural racism and white privilege, inspired by her best-selling books Little Antiracist Book, Who’s Afraid of Black Feminism and What is Locus of Speech. In addition to the collaboration with O Boticário, Djamila was invited by the cosmetic brand Quem disse, berenice? (which is part of Boticário Group) to co-create her own lipstick in their new collection “Women we love” (in Portuguese, “As Mulheres que amamos”), a limited edition that celebrates the freedom of women being themselves and breaking with old beauty patterns. Brands could be inspired by those examples and provide a more ethical approach to the discussion of relevant topics like racism. According to upcoming Mintel research on attitudes towards ethics and sustainability, nearly three in five Brazilians consider brands that promote equality (eg racial, gender equity) to be ethical; among women, the percentage increases, reinforcing how brands can succeed by promoting ethical practices.

Djamila is currently a collaborating editor for the weekly magazine Carta Capital and columnist for the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. In 2019, Djamila was awarded the Prince Claus Awards, a Dutch fund established in 1996 that supports artists, critical thinkers, and organizations who innovate in culture and social development. She was also listed among the 20 Successful Women of Brazil by Forbes in 2021, thanks to her contributions in the social sphere.

Rina Ishii – Founder of Nagi and CEO of BLAST Inc.

Reiko Hasegawa, Senior Beauty and Personal Care Analyst (Japan)

Rina Ishii is one of the many young entrepreneurs in Japan who is actively working to empower women in her country. After launching female empowerment media BLAST and period-proof underwear brand Nagi in 2018, the 31-year-old Millennial appeared on the Forbes’ “Japan 30 Under 30 list (influencer category)” in 2019.

BLAST focuses on celebrating women. Using Instagram and Twitter to drive audience engagement, it covers various topics from social issues to menstrual hygiene to sexual health, making it more comfortable for women and girls to speak about the normally tabooed topics in Japan.

Removing the need to carry menstrual hygiene products, the first batch of Nagi’s debut collection sold out in its first week. Featuring stylish designs and colour options, the collection also appeals to eco-conscious consumers, who are looking for ways to reduce waste by replacing disposable menstrual products. Manufactured in Japan, the high-quality underwear offers super-absorbency and comfort, as well as deodorant and antibacterial effects. Although still very niche in the market, the brand has made a promising start and proved that period underwear can be great sustainable alternatives to panty liners, pads, and tampons. The brand celebrates the beautiful shapes of all women in their ad campaigns too.

When it comes to gender equality, Japan is far behind other advanced countries in the world. In the 2020 World Economic Forum report, Japan has dropped to 121st place in the global ranking of 153 countries in terms of gender parity. However, thanks to Rina and the rising tide of young female activists standing up for equality, we have high hopes and believe that these women could create positive changes for future generations.

Magdalena Kubit – CEO of Jogurty Magda

Honorata Jarocka, Senior Food and Drink Analyst (Poland)

Making veganism a more inclusive movement can be seen as the driving force behind the success of Jogurty Magda, a small local enterprise run by Magdalena Kubit and located in the Polish mountain region. Established in 1991 by Magdalena’s father as a dairy manufacturer, Jogurty Magda – inspired by Magdalena’s name – has had a strong innovation-led ambition since the very beginning (eg the launch of a clinically-tested probiotic yogurt in 1997). Starting in 2015, when Magdalena joined the team, it has been moving towards a more plant-based future. Driven by her vision to fuel the plant-based trend in a country that’s known for its traditional cuisine, Magdalena’s values and life priorities are deeply rooted in health and environmental-friendliness, which have been adopted as the company’s mission.

As a result, the end of 2017 saw the introduction of PlantOn coconut-based yogurt alternatives which have quickly gathered a loyal following. Based on celebrating nature and promoting healthy lifestyles, Magdalena’s mission is about offering plant-based products that are tasty, affordable, and accessible. Such an approach combined with a positive communication style has enabled Magda Plant-Based to reach a broader pool of consumers beyond just vegans and people with dairy allergy/lactose intolerance. The company’s success in dairy alternatives has also marked an important – and unique – move in the food and drink space in Poland as in mid-2020 an official transition towards a fully plant-based enterprise was announced.

With a clear vision and passion for setting a new course of development in the dairy industry, Magdalena is a strong female pioneer and role model for other Polish entrepreneurs who wish to jump on the plant-based bandwagon and also put a new spin on traditional cuisine that’s known for its meat-heavy dishes.