At my first job in a corporate office, my feet developed a mysterious purple rash. The culprit, I discovered, was toasted skin syndrome, long-term burns I’d contracted from clinging to my space heater to stay warm at work. That was around the same time the workplace thermostat studies went viral and revealed most office temperatures are set for the metabolic rates and dress codes of cis men. The effects of this extend beyond being cold at work—or in my case, burned feet. One study found women performed worse on tests in the typical office climate, yet their results improved as the temperature climbed.
By now, this data seems unsurprising, even trite, and of course it barely scratches the surface of systemic sexism. But it’s an example of the way that even while attitudes change, we still inherit infrastructures of oppression. Office temperature norms were set by a study from the 1960s, when men still made up the lion’s share of the workforce. White, cis men built our economy, and, naturally, they built it with their own interests and physiology in mind.
For example, seatbelts are usually engineered for the average 40-year-old man, which means women are 71% more likely to be injured in car crashes and 17% more likely to die. (A caveat: Trans people seem to be left out of these studies entirely, another example of the myopic way our world has been designed.)
This is why, for Women’s History Month, we’ve rounded up ten companies that cater to diverse women. By putting women first, these businesses have each made innovations in their fields and improved countless women’s lives. Read on and celebrate them with us.
Uoma Beauty innovates for the needs of BIPOC women. Their mascara was inspired by founder Sharon Chuter’s frustration with the options available. “[People] of color tend to have short lashes,” she told Byrdie in September, “whether it is the Black woman with short lashes that curl up tightly or the Asian woman with straight and short lashes."
The innovation isn’t limited to their mascara, though. Their foundation comes in an inclusive range of 51 shades, which are divided into six skin tone categories, from dark brown to very fair. Each category has its own formula specifically made to target issues common for people with that skin tone. For example, the brown shades are made with Wooly Thistle extract to lessen hyperpigmentation, and the olive shades contain honey to battle premature aging.
BALA Nurse Shoes
BALA is the brainchild of three former Nike shoe experts, who noticed over 90% of nurses are women, yet their sneakers were designed for men. In fact, founders Brian Lockard and Caprice Neely explained to me, almost all athletic shoes are designed for men first, then shrunk down and tweaked for women’s sizes. This process is known as “shrink it and pink it,” and is ubiquitous throughout the fitness industry, despite key differences between the average man’s foot and the average woman’s.
“[Nurses] have to stand and walk for twelve hours per day, three days in a row at least,” Neely said. “Sometimes they walk like six to seven miles per shift.” The pandemic has reminded us of the respect nurses deserve, and yet the market hasn’t met their equipment needs. BALA seeks to change that. “There’s a difference between telling somebody you respect them, and showing somebody you respect them,” Lockard says. “LeBron James doesn’t compromise on his products, and nurses shouldn’t have to either.”
RUBIES is an activewear company for trans girls, founded when a girl and her father (Ruby and Jamie Alexander) were apprehensive about a taking a beach trip in a foreign country. Ruby wanted to wear a bikini, but her dad was worried about her safety, and thus decided to provide a solution for other little girls transitioning. Their company motto is “Every little girl deserves to shine,” and they sell compressive and comfortable bikini bottoms. They even give out free pairs to families in need.
The Flex Company
Flex was inspired by founder Lauren Wang’s experience with chronic yeast infections from tampon use. Flex wants periods to be neither uncomfortable nor embarrassing, the mission behind their menstrual discs and cups. Both products allow up to twelve hours of wear, are hypoallergenic, FDA-approved, and more environmentally friendly than tampons. The cup boasts easy removal, and the discs are a Byrdie favorite for the way they allow mess-free period sex.
Black Girl Sunscreen
Black Girl Sunscreen has taken the beauty world by storm, achieving cult status among editors and consumers of all skin tones. Their products are designed to eliminate the white cast sunscreen commonly leaves on Black skin—eliminating a barrier to sun safety. Black people have lower melanoma survival rates, and Black Girl Sunscreen wants to decrease their risk and raise awareness.
Beauty influencer Jennifer Renée founded Ivoree Beauty after experiencing firsthand the lack of products made for people with Albinism. She created a Facebook group called Albinism Beauty Chat to hear about other people’s experiences, and launched her first product based on their needs. “[The members of the group] asked about blonde lashes,” she told Byrdie, “and I told them I’d try to find out if I could get those made. I thought they were just going to be for that small group of people. But once I posted it on social media, it went viral.”
After a year, the company has now expanded to lip glosses—we’re excited to see what they do next.
Universal Standard points out that 67% of women in the US wear a size 14 or above, yet they’re relegated to limited plus-size options. That’s why they seek to provide high quality fashion basics to women of all sizes. Their size chart spans from 00 to 40, and they shoot all of their products on models across a range of sizes, so you can imagine how their clothing might look on your body.
Their Fit Liberty collection is particularly revolutionary, founded on the idea that clothing should fit the wearer, rather than the wearer trying to fit the clothing. If your size changes within a year of purchase, you can swap for a better one.
Jessica Blackler founded Jecca Blac after providing makeup classes to trans women and learning about the ways the beauty industry doesn’t meet their needs. Her hero product is the Correct & Conceal Palette, specifically designed to provide long-lasting coverage over beard shadow for transitioning women. Since then, the brand has expanded to a line of primers and play pots, all geared towards the philosophy that makeup should be for everyone. The brand offers free selfie consultations and video chat services to those who want to learn about makeup, demystifying the process for trans women in particular.
Pepper is a woman-founded, women-led brand that creates bras for small breasts, battling against unrealistic body standards. They point out that women of any size can have any size breasts—very rarely do you see a 36AA in stores, and plus-size retailers cater to their larger-breasted customers.
Pepper launched in 2017 with a Kickstarter goal of $10,000, which they reached in only ten hours. Since then, they’ve designed five bras, tailored to the needs of women who are B-cups or smaller.
Girl + Hair
Dr. Camille Verovic founded Girl + Hair after realizing there were no products on the market to help grow out her natural hair while wearing a protective style. Verovic used her background in science to formulate the first line for scalp and hair care underneath extensions. Her Under Care System is uses a precision tip applicator so you can put the product where you need it, and low-viscosity formulas to make sure you can cover the whole scalp.
Kingma, B., & Lichtenbelt, W. (2015, August 03). Energy consumption in buildings and female thermal demand. Retrieved March 05, 2021, from https://www.nature.com/articles/nclimate2741
Bose, D., Segui-Gomez, M., & Crandall, J. (2011, December). Vulnerability of female drivers involved in motor vehicle crashes: An analysis of US population at risk. Retrieved March 05, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222446/