The Victorian government is coming under fire over the gendered nature of its reopening roadmap, as beauty and personal care services businesses question why they will be forced to remain closed, while others such as hairdressers will be allowed to open.
More than 17,000 people have signed an online petition this week, criticising Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews for extending the closure of beauty businesses, as anger about the conservative reopening plan grows.
Under Victoria’s reopening roadmap, retailers including hairdressers will be allowed to reopen once the state records fewer than five new cases on average over two weeks, albeit no sooner than October 26.
But beauty and personal care services businesses will be forced to wait much longer, until at least November 23, when no new cases are recorded for two weeks.
Business owners are angry about the discrepancy, with some arguing it highlights the gendered nature of the reopening plan, with female-dominated industries forced to stay closed longer than male-dominated ones such as construction.
Petition author, Melbourne-based Laser Skin & Body owner Katelyn Wheatley, said Victorian authorities have yet to provide a “science-based explanation” for why beauty businesses are being treated differently to hairdressers.
“Professor Sutton declared, on behalf of your government, that beauty was simply less essential than hair. This commentary, in the absence of any scientific delineation, is gendered,” Wheatley said.
“It is an indictment on a female-dominant industry and a female-dominant client base.”
Earlier this week Chapel Cosmetics owner Claudia Chapelhow, a registered nurse, told SmartCompany she was confident her business could re-open safely.
“I work in a very sterile environment with one-on-one appointments,” she said.
There is growing awareness that the COVID-19 pandemic, and the response to it, has had a disproportionately negative impact on female workers and businesses in female-dominated industries.
LinkedIn published a survey on Wednesday showing female workers are much less confident than male workers about their labour market prospects in the wake of the pandemic.
And this morning, the ABC reported that new modelling indicates female workers have been shortchanged by the reopening roadmap, finding the stage four lockdown has affected nearly twice as many women as men.