Hilary Coles, Hims/Hers: Empowerment through health and wellness access
Minimalist packaging, ease of access and clever marketing – Hims has taken the men’s health and wellness market in the US by storm since its launch in November 2017. A year later they launched the sister brand Hers, aimed at women.
Co-Founder at Hers / VP Product at Hims/Hers, Hilary Coles joins #movethedial to talk about democratizing access for health and wellness, retaining women talent and the importance of transparency in mentor-mentee relationships.
The pride is clear in Hilary’s voice as she talks about her single Mom who worked three jobs to support Hilary and her two younger sisters.
“I think having that work ethic and seeing what women can accomplish in the workplace is a highly positive thing that should be embraced and chased,” Hilary emphasizes.
After getting her MBA from Kellogg’s School of Business Management, Hilary joined Atomic – a Venture Capital fund and Incubator in San Francisco. Through their Founder-in-Residence programme, Hilary was introduced to Hims CEO Andrew Dudum. Hilary describes Andrew as her first male advocate and as her boss, he has been able to move the dial for her in tactical ways, such as ensuring she’s always in the room for important meetings.
She joined Hims/Hers team as a Founder-in-Residence alongside Andrew and another founder Jack Abraham. Having women represented in the founding trio really impacted their decisions.
“We saw that diversity was really needed and made us better because we were able to create a more inclusive voice,” Hilary explains.
Knowing this was such an important part of their success they were mindful of how they hired as they expanded. Today, Hims/Hers have refreshing statistics with women making up more than half of their Director level and above and equal gender-diversity across the 60-people company.
To keep that diversity alive, they make an effort to never interview just one person for a job. “We try to build out our network and ensure we are interviewing a bunch of different people for jobs,” Hilary explains.
Retaining Talent through a Healthy Space
With such a high representation of women in their workforce, retaining talent is hugely important to Hims/Hers. Hilary shares some tips for employers and employees to cultivate a healthy environment where women can work to their full potential.
Hilary thinks that a lot of women are sensitive to companies paying lip service to their opportunities for women. “What matters is getting paid well for your time, being in the room during important meetings, giving your perspective and learning that confidence to give your perspective.”
She warns against emailing employees outside of working hours. “As a boss, if you start emailing at 10am on a Saturday, it will popcorn because your team thinks: “Well my boss is emailing so I need to be emailing. It’s quite stressful.”
“Something I try to instill in the younger women in the workplace is that you have to take care of yourself because no-one is going to do that for you.” Hilary goes on to explain if that means leaving at 5pm to work-out or turning off one day a week, you should feel confident about doing that.
Speaking on the need for women to be “super vocal” on behalf of the other women in your company, Hilary shares some important words of wisdom:
“Use every opportunity to lift and amplify other women”
Let's be honest
When mentoring women in her school network and within her company, Hilary finds transparency is the key to a successful mentor-mentee relationship.
“I try to be extremely transparent about what I’m still figuring out and what I’m anxious about so that my mentees feel confident sharing with me.”
Hilary feels there is a culture, sometimes in the corporate world too, of not complaining and pretending everything is perfect.
“You’re supposed to have everything together – be a great home-maker, Marie Kondo your home, and also kill it at work and know what to do in every situation,” Hilary says while expanding on why this culture is harmful.
“Everything takes works – from writing an email to speaking up in meetings. I try to drive home how important it is to prepare, no-one is naturally good at everything.”
As Hims was starting out, the team was looking around and couldn’t see health and wellness products that resonated with them or the men in their lives. “It was all red and macho-man. I was so excited to see how we could build a wellness brand that was inclusive and made sense,” Hilary expands.
Coming from Canada, Hilary has been lucky enough to have had Universal Healthcare for the majority of her life. However, she could see the huge potential impact they had to democratize pieces of “an unfortunately quite broken healthcare system” when they launched in November 2017.
“90% of our men were coming to see us for erectile dysfunction, hair loss or their skin but it was the first time they were seeking treatment for these issues.”
When the Hims/Hers team looked deeper into the women’s health and wellness market, they looked at situations where how do people people who don’t have or can’t use their health insurance get birth control? Or how to improve access to good skincare for people who can’t afford to go to a dermatologist.
Hers launched just over three months ago in November 2018, offering birth control, skin care and hair loss products, and are rapidly expanding into other areas.
Looking at the blogs on each company website, it is immediately clear that Hims/Hers is not afraid to tackle topics that some might consider difficult – from women’s hair loss to erectile dysfunction. When Hims first launched men were coming to see them for erectile dysfunction, hair loss and skin issues and 90% of them were seeking treatment for the first time.
“We want to create normalizing and empowering conversations. If we contribute to topics remaining in the shadows, we are not accomplishing that.”
They are focused their customers to know they are accepted, appreciated and supported.
“We are really motivated by the idea that you can really help change people’s outcomes in their health and how they feel about themselves.”
Hilary will be speaking at our International Women’s Day event on March 8th. More details here.
By: Róisín Nestor