It is hard to talk about the role of gender in the spa world without thinking in stereotypes. It is even harder if I think back to when I started in this industry more than 20 years ago. I was introduced to the spa world through the world of fitness. When I opened my first spa, I was excited about the fitness center and knew nothing about massage, skincare, nailcare, beauty, or the other more typically “female” aspects of the business. I had a lot to learn, and I can still remember having my first massage (“really, take off everything?”), my first manicure, and my first facial.
In the past two decades, I have been thrilled to see the gender lines blur and almost disappear as more men discover the joys of spa. I remember inviting Sam Logan, who was then the golf director at the Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita, to come try a complimentary massage. He enjoyed it so much that he began coming every week. After a few months, I invited him to try a facial. He quickly became a regular. He also became my best salesperson and began sending men in droves from the golf course.
When I moved to La Costa Resort and Spa (Carlsbad, CA), I was impressed to see such a strong, loyal male clientele. “I’m a metrosexual,” one of our 72-year-old guests joked. Metrosexual was a term primarily used for Generation Xers, but the La Costa crowd was ahead of its time. And this group’s sons and grandsons also came into the spa, so new generations of male spa-goers have been born.
In my current role as corporate spa director for Starwood Hotels, the old questions about how we can get more men into the spa are rarely asked. All of our spa concepts are designed to be gender neutral. While some of our spas offer special treatments and packages to cater to male needs, there is no corporate requirement to do so. Wanting to look and feel your best is a human desire that transcends gender, and that is how we approach it.
While gender differences have become less important for the spa clientele, as a career, the spa industry is still predominately female. Working in spas, I have often been outnumbered—sometimes ganged up on—but always inspired by the “fairer sex.” It is both challenging and educational to be in the minority group, but I would encourage other men to join the industry. Increased diversity is better for any business, and I believe men have more to contribute (just as corporate America could benefit from a greater female presence).
For me, it has been life changing to work in a business that values nurturing and compassion. I can attribute much of how my leadership style has evolved to my immersion into the female-dominated world of spa. Perhaps it is through this exposure that I’ve developed my own beliefs that love and emotions not only have a place in business but may also be more important than anything else.—Jeremy McCarthy
@bio: Jeremy McCarthy is the director of global spa operations and development at Starwood Hotels and Resorts. He holds a master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology and teaches a course in Positive Leadership for Spas and Hospitality through UC Irvine. To read more of his writing, check out his blog at http://psychologyofwellbeing.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @jeremymcc.