Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Women are noticeably absent from the C-suite of European banks, universities are unofficially prioritizing men in admissions to correct a widening gender gap, and author Marisa Meltzer shares the discrepancy that inspired her to write her new book Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss's Glossier. Have a lovely Tuesday!
- Behind the gloss. In 2021, I started writing a book about the beauty industry that became Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier. Out today, my book tells the story of the rise of one of the 21st century’s most influential brands.
I got my first view of the business-book landscape before I started my reporting for this project. Glossier’s enigmatic founder Emily Weiss, whom I interviewed for a magazine story at her home in the summer of 2019, had seemingly read every business book in existence. In her living room, she had copies of Bad Blood about Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and Principles by Ray Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater; two separate hardcovers of Angela Duckworth’s Grit; Small Fry, the memoir by Steve Jobs’s daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs; The Everything Store, about Amazon; and Powerhouse on the Hollywood talent agency CAA.
When I left her home, I walked directly to a bookstore in search of well-known startup stories about women-led companies. There had to be something out there, but I came up short. There were scant biographies about founders of beauty companies born in the early 20th century like Estée Lauder and a handful of books that were more about self-help, like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, but the gender disparity was startling. There was almost nothing about women CEOs in tech, let alone those like Weiss whose career touched on myriad industries and facets of culture. Weiss was a player who understood the game when it came to image and the CEO, so she must have encountered the same lack of stories about women that I did. There was no one like her.
The gender imbalance was also wildly apparent in who writes books about figures in business. A sea of men!
I knew that I could be the one to create a balanced view of Weiss and all that her company has innovated without sugarcoating her flaws. I have been reporting on beauty for nearly two decades. Glossier’s story—her story—was important to tell, and I was determined to write about it. I started working on a book idea a few months later.
Glossier changed everything after it debuted in 2014, from where and how products are sold to the kinds of emotional and social messages promoted—the intangible products—alongside skincare and makeup. Glossier’s influence far exceeds beauty. The company was at the center of so many issues that defined the era: racial reckoning, the labor movement, pandemic shutdowns, supply chain problems, and female founders falling (or being pushed?) from grace.
Apart from Glossier itself as an exceptional business story, I was also fascinated by the sheer power of beauty, an industry that generates more than $500 billion globally every year. And the sector is still growing; some predict it will reach $800 billion sometime this decade. In the United States, we spend more on beauty than in any other country. Do you know what Dior sells a lot more of than dresses or even handbags? Diorshow mascara, which retails for $29.50.
That’s another reason why Glossier’s influence far exceeds its size—estimated sales of $275 million—nine years into its existence.
Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier is on sale today.
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This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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