Always wanting to educate yourself and learn: being in the mode to continue to foster more education to grow your skill set. Reading, taking classes- it’s so important to grow and evolve.
How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Rachel Roff.
Rachel Roff is the Founder and CEO of Urban Skin Rx®, an award-winning, accessible skincare brand with high quality products tailored to melanin-rich skin. Soon after beginning her career as an aesthetician and laser technician, Rachel realized she was unable to perform certain treatments on patients with skin of color. Shocked and frustrated by the lack of education and services available for deeper skin tones, Rachel made it her life’s mission to make the skincare industry more inclusive.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
I grew up in California. When I was younger I had a large nevus mole on my face and struggled a lot with acne, so I was unfortunately a target for bullies. Those experiences fueled my passion for skincare to find a way to help people so they wouldn’t have to go through what I did.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
When I was 15, my mom took me to a dermatologist to help treat my acne. I fell in love with the idea of becoming an esthetician and owning my own medical spa.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
It always blows me away when I find out a celebrity uses my products and is a fan of the brand. Some have been Cynthia Erivo, Estelle, Teyana Taylor, and Ryan Destiny. I’m always so excited!
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Passion for my craft: For me it was not about being successful or making money, it was truly about wanting to help people feel better and provide my friends and family with good skincare solutions. This is what has made me good at creating quality products, which is the most important thing — you have to have products that work!
- Persistence: I will not take no for an answer. I’m the type of person that will find a way to do it even if I have to do it myself.
- Self awareness: Not being in denial about your weaknesses so you can evolve and grow. Take responsibility for your shortcomings. I’m very hard on myself. I’m always beating myself up which I think can be a good thing or a bad thing.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?
Because traditionally we’ve lived in a very sexist world, and overall we’re not part of a world that has a lot of equality. Someone has to be the underdog and that has typically been women’s position. Now that we’re not only limited to the behind-the-scenes work, we’re receiving more credit and we can sit at the front table. Now, we’re more widely viewed as a man’s equal, if not (in many ways) surpassing them. Today, we’re mothers, wives, and CEOs, sometimes having more than 3 full-time jobs. Men don’t typically have to take on this many roles.
Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?
I can’t tell you how many times men ask me “what does your husband do?.” I drive a nice car and they always give my man credit for it. The credit automatically goes to a man versus myself. I’ve worked hard for this.
What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?
Not dim her shine or tone down her personality or her achievements to make anyone feel comfortable. She needs to be exactly who she is.
What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?
I think that we have to be careful with things like social media, which can make success look fast-tracked. You see this image of a successful woman, but rarely know what it took for her to get there. Media and press should take responsibility and focus more on the behind the scenes and the work it took to get to where a powerful woman is today. Learn more about the person as a friend, as a sister, as a mother, etc.
In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?
No. I refuse to endure situations like that.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
A man can be considered direct and a woman will be considered a bitch while doing the same thing. If a man is trying to push the bottom line he’s a great negotiator but a woman is cheap.
Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?
I have not fit my personal life into my business and career. It has been a struggle in my relationship as well as being a mother. I sometimes feel I don’t give them the attention they deserve. I’m always on my phone. Sometimes I feel guilty about it as a mother and a girlfriend. I feel selfish and as if I’m obsessed with my career and at times not giving them what they deserve. Sometimes I’m stressed that they aren’t getting the best of me. This feeling of guilt is something men typically experience less than women.
What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?
I really try to stop working on the weekends. The last 6 months I’ve worked less during those days than I ever have in my life. I force myself not to do it and check out. I purposely try not to be on my phone or in my emails on the weekends.
I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?
I try really hard to balance not putting too much pressure on myself regarding appearance, but I never fully achieve it. Society puts a lot of pressure on all of us- we live in a world where women are dissected by their looks. Social media can be tough. Being well put together can often be a symbol of success (a nice suit or bag).
How is this similar or different for men?
Society is not as hard on men, but I do think they do also have pressure to be well put together in business.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Staying humble: I can’t stand people who aren’t humble. You can’t ever get too comfortable. Always remember that what’s here today can always be gone tomorrow if you’re not careful, calculated.
2.Healthy lifestyle: good sleep, exercise, diet, enough water. You have to have enough energy to be able to have good mental focus.
3.Having the right people around: The company you keep, from friends to your work team can really break you. You want people that help you be the best version of yourself.
4.Compassion: It’s a really hard time in the world now and you have to have humility. For me, I wouldn’t have a strong team behind me if I didn’t have compassion. I wouldn’t have customers. There are things out of their control. Remind yourself that everyone’s human.
5. Always wanting to educate yourself and learn: being in the mode to continue to foster more education to grow your skill set. Reading, taking classes- it’s so important to grow and evolve.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.