‘Women need to look good’

Women need to look good

Do women need to

look good at all times

to get any respect?

I’m currently working on reviews of lip balms, having noticed that they are carried by most of the women featured in the What’s in Your Bag series. I wasn’t too sure at first about this step away from office products and coffee makers so I asked reviewer Sharon Jackson of Path 42 for her opinion.

Sharon said she thought it would be a fun thing to do, and suggested we might like to consider other ways of ‘keeping fresh, professional and yet look good’, like hand and face wipes. She added ‘Unfortunately in some ways but women need to look good at all times to get any respect it seems.’

What a thought-provoking remark. There has been a lot in the press and social media lately about the small numbers of women in broadcasting, government and public life. Then there was the storm over the Women Who Eat on Tubes Facebook page and the Circle Line Lunch Party that was organised in protest.

Helen Walmsley-Johnson, who writes the Invisible Woman column in The Guardian and is in her 50s, has written about being rejected for a job on the basis they were looking for someone more ‘up and coming’ ie younger.

Olympic swimmer and medal winner Reecca Adlington has had years of abuse by internet trolls over her looks. Apparently if you’re a woman it’s not enough to get to the very top of your field, you should look like a model as well.

As women working from home we manage to avoid office politics, which might include sexism, and certainly includes the pressure to present yourself in a certain way. I know that many of you regard the freedom from office politics as one of the great benefits of home working, along with being able to wear comfortable working clothes.

But we all need to go out, whether it’s to meet clients, attend networking events or just to enjoy the buzz of a busy coffee shop and feel part of something bigger than the home. Women often tell me they find it hard to get their wardrobe right for working outside the home.

And I’ve joked about rushing to put on make-up before a Skype call. But maybe it’s not that funny. Is it just the way the world operates or do you find it annoying and limiting? Do you feel women need to look good in order to get respect as business owners? Does it apply equally to men who look less than well turned-out?

12 Comments on "‘Women need to look good’"

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  1. Hmmm interesting. Is it about confidence? I think we need to dress for the occasion and the nature of the client. But I do think this applies to men in business too.

    • I think it also applies to men, but more so to women, if you see what I mean! Especially as we get older. The arguments at the BBC show that men are seen as distinguished as they get older, women are replaced.

  2. Read certain newspapers (or chip wrappers as I sometimes call them) and they’re all over women who haven’t dressed up to go to the shops (celebrities I mean here) and I even saw one article where an actress was doing some charity work and the main story seemed to be more interested that she was ‘make-up free’.

    I also never wanted a job with Marks & Spencers when I was younger as they insisted on women wearing make-up, same with airlines and so on it seems.

    Are we conditioned to behave in this way now? That we feel we *have* to wear at least some make-up and dress-up in certain situations that don’t necessarily warrant it?

  3. Caradiaz says:

    I’m one hundred percent with Jane above. It is a combination of confidence and occasion: nobody needs to wear make-up to go to the gym but if you have a business meeting, one assumes you’d want to come across as professional and looking the part will help.

    Oh, and it certainly isn’t just a women thing. In our book, it applies to men too.

    • And men are supposed to be buying more ‘make-up’ now, aren’t they, although presumably it’s called something suitably butch-sounding! Funnily enough, there’s an article in The Telegraph today about an actress who gave up acting because of the ‘bitchiness and Botox’ – and that includes young men, apparently!

  4. Liz says:

    This is a really good question. I agree with Caradiaz that it probably applies to men too, but not with quite the same intensity. And Jane’s right about being self-employed partly to side-step all that.

    But I’ve also been in kind of the reverse situation at times. Most of my clients are conservationists who are used to being out in all weathers and don’t generally dress up for meetings. More than once I’ve turned up in a skirt and heels and felt completely ridiculous. (Not that anyone has ever implied that they thought I looked ridiculous!) It’s about dressing right for the situation – but how do you define ‘right’, and who defines it? In my book it’s all about feeling comfortable – physically as well as psychologically.

    • Ha, that’s a fascinating reversal of the usual meeting situation, Liz! That phrase ‘never knowingly overdressed’ comes to mind – except you were!