❤ I can't always make up my mind, but I am boldly undecided. ❤

16 January 2012


Cause of ambivalence: 
My floral skirt (and the pressures of dressing like a girl)

Note contents:
"Dear skirt,
You are very cute and I like you a lot, but I read this study that said it was better for my career if I chose you over pants, and that makes me resent you.❤"

Place left:
In the metro, on my way to work.


A recent article by the job research site Workopolis quoted a study done by the department of psychology at the University of Herfordshire, which determined that it was better for women to wear skirts rather than pants when going for a job interview.

This is what they found:
“The research, done at the department of psychology at the University of Herfordshire, also found that opinions are formed within seconds of first meeting. When 300 people were shown eight images of women in pants suits or skirts and asked to give their first impressions, they preferred the women in skirts. The women were rated on the following five criteria: success, trustworthiness, confidence, flexibility and salary. Looks were not part of the study as the faces were blanked and everyone wore navy."

When asked, Human Resources expert Sarah Paul said, "I tend to think that a woman who wears a skirt suit is capitalizing on an opportunity to differentiate herself, to stand out among her male counterparts. All men wear pants suits, most women opt for pants and the ones that wear skirts seem to stand out. This is what successful leaders do, they stand out and make you take notice. The fact that she is in a suit (hopefully a stylish one at that) speaks to her professionalism, ambition, power. But taking it one step further by wearing a skirt and dressing in an overtly feminine way elicits personality characteristics more often demonstrated by women... support, empathy, sensitivity... which are all desirable traits of a leader in today's workplace."

I feel uneasy about these types of studies because I feel like they subtlety try to convince and/or manipulate women into being more "feminine". Furthermore, I disagree that so-called “feminine traits” as described by Sarah Paul are necessarily “desirable traits of a leader in today's workplace.” The fact is, most of the leaders in the workplace are still men, and according to a study posted on called “THE MYTH OF THE IDEAL WORKER: Does Doing All The Right Things Really Get Women Ahead?” even when women are more confident when asking for raises and promotions, they still don’t benefit from as many career advancements as their male counterparts.

“We studied 3,345 high potentials in this report, each of whom stayed on a “traditional” career path following graduation from a full-time MBA program. (…) While conventional wisdom encourages women and men to be proactive to advance up the corporate ladder, we found that only men advanced further and faster when they did “all the right things.” For women, adopting the prescribed proactive strategies didn’t have the same payoff, although it was slightly better than not doing much at all.”

Therefore, can we not assume that feminine traits are not exactly an asset in the workplace?  Yet, not being feminine, isn't the solution either.  What is the study of the University of Herfordshire really representative of then? Do people really want their female bosses and co-workers to be more feminine, or are people just uncomfortable when women do not conform to their socially constructed gender roles?  While I don’t think that women should start acting and dressing like men to get ahead in their careers, I don’t believe that wearing a skirt will solve the problem either. I personally like dressing feminine from time to time, but I often resent the norms of femininity, especially when they are imposed on me.

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