How Dressing Well Enables Women to Represent Themselves as Leadership Potential
Like most industries, the technology industry has had a heavy male to female ratio since it originated. Today, the ratio stands at about 80% male to 20% female with a majority having a preference for casual attire due to the nature of their work (long hours at their computers). So, seeking to attract the bulk of their target talent, big tech companies often offer a more casual sexy dress code as a modern-day perk. As a result, in order to fit in, many women dress down as well. Weekend wear has become work wear. It’s one thing to sit in a chair inside a cubicle or bullpen all day, but it’s another to represent your leadership potential and your professionalism when you step out of that private space in weekend type of attire.
Whether women realize it or not, the spotlight is always on at work. When attending an open forum presented by the head of your organization, an all-day meeting at your own site or at a different location, a social event, or an external conference, the way you dress sends a signal to others about your level of commitment, potential and professionalism.
So why do women dress down when they have the opportunity to dress to impress?
- The event information suggests a “business casual” dress code. For the new generation, this means a T-shirt and jeans. But business casual is less casual than business. For men, it means a button-down shirt and pants, but no tie. For women, it means slacks and a blouse or a dress that is office-appropriate. Don’t underestimate the importance a first impression could have on your career further down the road.
- They are dressing for comfort during a long day of travel or a daylong symposium. Dress flats or shoes with a low heel, a pair of dress slacks, and a blazer or cardigan will keep you as warm and comfortable as a pair of sneakers and a hoody if you are sitting in an airplane or in a conference room. Your command presence in a room of highly opinionated co-workers is exponential when your choice of clothing projects a professional image.
- An open forum is perceived as just another hour in the day instead of an opportunity to network and be remembered. By dressing professionally when given the opportunity to meet the head of your organization and network with management, you will be remembered more than your co-workers who chose to wear casual tees and jeans. When you meet up with that executive again to gain support for a program or to interview for the next rung on the ladder, you will be remembered in a positive light.
Women in all professions can benefit from the following tips:
- Wear something memorable in the professional sense, not the regret later or forever sense. Just like tying a brightly colored ribbon to your black suitcase keeps it from looking like everyone else’s at the airport, you will be easier to spot and remembered if you wear a color that highlights your features and your personality. One high-level executive in charge of a company’s diversity program loved to wear her red or pink suit. She not only looked and felt confident, but everyone in the room remembered her.
- Test drive an outfit or a new pair of shoes before traveling or wearing them to a special event, especially if you are not used to wearing a skirt or a higher heel. There is nothing worse than an unexpected wardrobe malfunction in front of an executive or a room full of people, especially if you have nothing to change into. It’s even worse to wear a brand-new pair of shoes that instantly creates blisters, making for a miserable, painful day when you need to be on your A game.
- Wear something that makes you feel confident. If you are not used to networking or meeting new people at another site or an external event, dressing in something that makes you feel great will give you that small boost of confidence you’ll need to meet new people. In fact, dressing professionally will encourage people to take the first step to meet you.
Planning your wardrobe shouldn’t be difficult, but it should be just as thoughtful as planning your week, preparing for your meetings, or planning your travel. How you represent yourself with your wardrobe takes more planning than grabbing your go-to pair of jeans off the floor, your favorite rock band T-shirt, and the shoes closest to the door. Simply adding a professional blazer over a comfortable cotton camisole with those go-to jeans and a professional pair of flats will raise the perception of your professional persona and enable you to represent your industry well!8