Let's stop beauty becoming a silent market

It’s official – our industry doesn’t exist. I’ve just renewed my car insurance (never easy at the best of times but it had lapsed while I was in Ibiza with a houseful of vodka-swilling teenagers).

“Don’t you email as well as write letters?”, I asked. I could have renewed my policy if I had been alerted to the expiry rather than spending hours of my life answering questions when back in the UK.

I could never be classed as a petrol head. In fact, other than knowing my car is an Audi, I have no idea about it. I didn’t even realise it had six gears until I asked my sister what the six and arrow symbol meant when I picked her up one day. I jest not.

So here I am on the phone… “What model is your car?” “Pass – can’t you get the details from my old policy?”, I ask. “Is it an Audi A1 1.4 Turbo?”. “If that’s what it says then go for it.”

“How many miles do you do per year?” I’m starting to sweat now. I sound like an imbecile. “Does it say on the old policy?”, I plead. “Can I guess?”. “Not really”, they tell me. I pluck a number from the air and cross my fingers. “Year of manufacture?” Silence from me. “Well, how long have you had it?”, they ask. “Does it say?”, I try again nervously.

It’s fair to say it’s not going well. They obviously think an imposter has stolen my identity because it’s not actually possible to know so little. I’m sure I can hear the bloke stifling a laugh… Until it comes to the personal details questions, where the tables are turned. “Occupation, Mrs Ward?”. “Company director,” I say. “What sector?” they ask. “Hair and beauty industry,” I say, finally sounding confident in my ability to answer them and persuade them I have at least one working brain cell. Silence. “We can’t find that sector. It’s not on our list,” he eventually says. “What?” I ask, incredulous. “The closest thing is hairdresser”, he says. “Shall I tick that?”

“No,” I storm. “It must be on there.” Then I start my usual tirade… the poor guy has now gone from thinking I am a dimwit to getting my full-on, back-to-work, PMT wrath. Does one of the biggest insurers in the country not know that we, our un-registerable little sector of (proven, if he takes my example) thickos employs 1% of the population? Or that our silly little industry, which doesn’t even have its own box to tick, contributes more than £6 billion per year to the UK economy?

And all this, coming from a woman who doesn’t know her registration number, the make, model or engine cc of her car; who, in fact, knows nothing more about her car than it is an Audi and black.

Now we are both silent. He’s sorry, he says, he will ensure he passes the correction on to the powers that be. There are two hopes of that, I think to myself.

It still surprises me that, in this day and age, an industry as economically powerful as ours has to fight for recognition at every turn but as long as we continue to be marginalised, I’ll keep fighting in these small ways, and I hope you’ll do the same.