According to a new study commissioned by law experts Slater and Gordon, lots of women are still being told what to wear in the workplace. Higher heels, "sexier" looks, more cleavage - you name it and women are apparently still being subjected to it.
What do you think about that? Has your boss ever commented on what you wear to work? I haven't ever experienced it myself and to be honest I'm quite surprised that kind of dialogue still occurs in the litigation-fuelled society we live in. The fact that Slater and Gordon have commissioned the study says it all about the kind of dodgy territory that these male bosses are playing in. And make no mistake about it; the inference to this study is that it is the male bosses making these remarks.
Like I said, I'm surprised that it goes on but I'm also wondering if they have a point. Albeit a slightly sexist and badly worded one.
Does your image have any bearing on your ability to do your job as is being implied here?
Now before you crucify me to a feminist stake just hear me out. I'm not for one moment suggesting that the ability to rock a mini skirt, totter around in high heels or expose your cleavage has any bearing on your ability to be professional or how good you are at your job. But I think you have to admit, appearances DO matter. They matter and you will be judged by them whether you like it or not.
When you waltz into the office first thing on a Monday morning or are rushing to meet a new client for a business lunch, what will be the very first thing that people notice about you? You know what I'm going to say because it is the very first thing YOU notice about other people. Their appearance.
Let's say for example you are going to interview two women for a role. The first woman is polite, professional and has an impressively competent CV with her. She also happens to have forgotten to brush her hair, her shoes are filthy and her outfit completely inappropriate for the office. The second woman is also polite, professional and armed with a great CV. She has blow-dried her hair, manicured her nails, dressed smartly and donned a pair of killer heels. Who are you going to hire? Who will you want facing up to important clients? You also know what I'm going to say to that too don't you.
Appearances do matter in the workplace. Your outer shell says something to the outside world about you as a person. If you have made an effort with your image and taken the time to look your best it sends out the message that this person has her shit together, she knows what she wants and she looks like a professional. If you then go on to be a complete air head or exceptionally lazy then it doesn't matter a bit what you look like. There is of course no style that makes up for substance but if you don't have your style sorted out then nobody will really want to hear about your substance.
Looking good and taking pride in your appearance shouldn't really be the way to get ahead at work I know. You should be relying on your ability to do a damn good job, behaviours that make you stand out and professionalism that makes you the one to watch. The truth of the matter is this: nobody cares about any of that unless you take some pride in your appearance. First impressions count and if you don't look like you care about them then your employer probably isn't going to care about you. So put away your outrage and put on your high heels. You'll go much further with them on.
Like this? Read more from Fi in The Ambition Series here
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