How Paul Mitchell Schools Will Drive Change

June 25, 2020
Paul Mitchell Schools
General News

Hi everyone. Winn Claybaugh here, Dean and Cofounder of Paul Mitchell Schools. Over the last several months, our school community has faced unprecedented challenges, including the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, the economic shutdown, and most recently, the horrific death of George Floyd and the passionate cries for racial justice.

To say the least, we’re living through an unusual time in history – one that I truly hope will result in lasting change, deeper understanding, and a stronger unity than ever among people everywhere.

Like all of you, I have been heartbroken over all of this, and when my heart aches, the only thing that I know to do is to get busy and give back. I have always believed that hope is born out of participation in hopeful solutions, which is why I quickly reached out to leaders and mentors in our Paul Mitchell world, so we could work together and start taking steps to bring about positive change.

To all of our Black African American Future Professionals, team members, educators, leaders, and alumni we see you, we hear you, we love you, and we are committed to creating an environment where each and every person feels loved and supported when you step through our doors to embark on the future of your dreams.

To all of our Future Professionals, team members, educators, leaders, and alumni – I thank you for taking the time to listen and learn about the pain of racial injustice felt by so many people in this world.

Our Paul Mitchell Schools have always had a philosophy of “one size fits all” – meaning we all share the responsibility of helping everyone feel loved and safe. Our culture has always been about bringing out the best in everyone, changing lives, making a difference, healing the planet, and healing ourselves.

Having said that, we can always do better. We NEED to do better! And by “we,” I mean all of us. In addition to school leaders and team members, each and every Future Professional has an urgent, important role, too.

We’re in an industry that focuses on making people LOOK beautiful. Our Paul Mitchell Schools also focus on helping people FEEL beautiful. Yet some of our classmates, team members, leaders, and guests feel marginalized and invisible. They walk in our doors and don’t see anyone else who looks like them. They call for an appointment and they’re told we don’t offer the type of service they want. Maybe we didn’t realize it before, but now that we do, there’s no turning back.

Not long ago, a group of girls attended a birthday party at a beauty school. They were offered their choice of services, but when the only Black girl in the group asked to have her hair straightened, her student didn’t know what to do. She fumbled for a while, until her instructor came to help. The instructor, unfortunately, was just as bad, and the birthday guest ended up being the last one done, with an unimpressive result. I can only imagine her frustration and embarrassment—and the future professional’s embarrassment, too. While I’m relieved to say this was not one of our schools, I absolutely know it could have been.

In the last few weeks, I’ve reached out to team members, mentors, and leaders for their insights. I’ve heard stories about having to turn down an appointment request because we couldn’t provide the type of service the person wanted. I’ve heard that some of our future professionals would love more experience working with hair types that are different from their own.

We’re in the education business, which means that every student should feel welcomed and supported by the staff and fellow students. Every student should graduate with the skills to work on every type of hair—and the life skills to embrace and support those who feel different or separate from everyone else.

How do we make this a reality and not just a temporary slogan? Here are some things that we are going to do.

After pausing briefly to listen and reflect, we asked for advice and guidance from our Black Paul Mitchell School owners, many of their adult children (representing the next generation of our school leaders), along with several Black members of the Advanced Education Team, salon and barbershop owners, and all of the top corporate leadership for Paul Mitchell Advanced Education and John Paul Mitchell Systems—about 40 leaders in all. This group is now a permanent standing committee called the Equity and Opportunity Council.

We were very deliberative in choosing this name.

  • “Equity” refers to the systemic change we are seeking to create
  • “Opportunity” is the catalyst for achieving equitable outcomes
  • And “Council” represents permanence and a deliberative approach

The Equity and Opportunity Council will guide and advise our leadership team as we review and improve every area of Paul Mitchell Schools. This Council will also help us design proper governance to ensure that we are held accountable and that all schools are in compliance with our new policies and protocols. I’d like to tell you about a few actions that are already in development:

  • We have already updated our contracts and catalogs to specifically state our position as an anti-racist organization: “Racism, hatred, inappropriate comments, and inappropriate images are not tolerated in Paul Mitchell ” Our Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying and Discrimination Policy and our Social Networking Policies have also been updated to specifically condemn racism. The revised statement says: “The use of racial comments and/or images used on social network sites will not be tolerated.” We also strengthened our corporate vision and mission statement, and our anti-bullying and discrimination policies, with specific language prohibiting racism of any kind.
  • We are reimagining education to include culture and diversity training and a focus on ensuring that all students have the tools, training, and hands-on experience to confidently serve guests of every race and all textures and formations of hair. We’re improving our student kits, tools, and curriculum to include Black mannequins, Marcel irons, with more details coming soon.
  • Our classrooms, imagery, social media, and websites will include more opportunities to showcase Black artists and educators as leaders and mentors that a broader Black audience can identify with and be inspired by.
  • In our curriculum and staff training, we recognize that a huge part of moving forward is listening, learning, and growing. It is in this spirit that we are engaging in an open dialogue and taking a fresh look at our educational curriculum and systems, including the development of segments on equity, unconscious bias training, opportunities for all, Black history, and the history of Black hairstyles.
  • In our enrollment and recruitment efforts, we will identify underserved communities and make sure they have access to the education and career opportunities our schools provide.
  • In our hiring and staff recruitment, we will seek team members who reflect racial diversity and who share our core values of love, justice, and inclusion. We will settle for nothing less from our partners, our affiliates, and our team members.
  • In our philanthropic commitment, our schools have already committed to start with a $65,000 donation to several organizations (to be named soon) that we can learn from and support.

For more information, I encourage you to read our corporate statement at It outlines the steps we are taking to strengthen and promote our culture of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. We will update this statement as we continue to take additional steps because this is not a one-time event. This will be the “new normal” of how we do business at Paul Mitchell Schools.

This may sound a little crazy, but I feel very fortunate that all of this is happening in my lifetime, and that all of us have been given this “gift” to make radical change. Our world desperately needs to change, and Paul Mitchell Schools have never been afraid to lead the way. We have been a leader for the Professional Beauty Association’s Disaster Relief Fund—we are always the first to donate and have been one of their largest contributors for many years. Our schools take on challenges and causes that others do not want to touch, such as the fight against human trafficking and our commitment to Food 4 Africa, where we’ve provided over 25 million meals to children who were orphaned by the HIV/AIDS epidemic . We will not shrink in the face of adversity and challenges.

I’m so proud of who we are and who we will become when we all work together. As a network and a brand we stand firmly on the side of love, justice, and inclusion, which is the cornerstone of our culture. But the actions that will count the most are the ones that each of us model every single day as a leader in our schools, our communities, and our families. On a personal note, in our home, George and I are going through the list of recommended books, films, documentaries, podcasts, and TED Talks that Paul Mitchell Schools shared on social media on Juneteenth, to educate ourselves as well as our little daughter.

Remember, a leader is not just the person who holds the title. If you have influence over just one other person, YOU are a leader, which means every single one of us can be a leader. This is our time to show our schools—and the professional beauty industry, and the entire planet what a group of visionaries and changemakers can accomplish when they lead with love and compassion.

Since we opened our first location, Paul Mitchell Schools have provided a safe, loving environment where people have overcome addictions, built self-esteem, left bad relationships, found mentors, and discovered a support system similar to the best family anyone could ever imagine, all while building the technical, artistic and business skills necessary to experience a great and satisfying career in the professional beauty industry. We’re a family, and when part of our family is in pain, it’s up us to surround them with love and stand by their side. We cannot sit still and do nothing in the face of hatred, abuse, discrimination, or intolerance.

While George Floyd’s death was a wakeup call to many, there are still a lot of people who have not awakened to the discrimination and racism that still exist. I want to say this loud and clear: Hateful, racist, and discriminatory behavior has no place in our schools. It never has and it never will. Just as we’ve worked hard to create a BE NICE culture in our schools and to spread it in our communities and the world, we will take that same approach by focusing first on equity, justice, and inclusion in our schools so it can then spread outward. To our leaders, affiliates, team members, and future professionals: if you don’t share these values, we respectfully invite you to join a different company, because we are 100 percent committed to making Paul Mitchell Schools a safe haven and a positive example for people everywhere.

I look forward to continuing this transformational journey with all of you. Stay tuned for more, because this is just the beginning!

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