Ladies, Dress the Part
Updated: Jun 6, 2019
"People should be beautiful in every way--in their faces, in the way they dress, in their thoughts, and in their innermost selves." Anton Chekhov
I was recently at a professional event with "Agile" and "Exec" in the title. The crowd was the usual DC-area professional fare - mostly men, but a decent amount of women too, mostly suits, but some business casual folks too.
There was this woman, though, that at first glance was dressed beyond the casual and into the "baggy, cat lady" territory. I tried not to judge.
The talks started and that woman sat behind me. I noticed she was listening and knitting at the same time (And not just knitting, but unknotting her yarn, pulling the strings, and inspecting her knit - really taking her project seriously). That was a first, but I tried, again, not to judge.
During one of the breaks, we struck up a conversation. It turned out she's a "Senior Program Manager" for a local government contractor. Over the course of the brief conversation, it turned out she's very smart, competent, and experienced agilest putting together a new team. In passing, she shared having a really hard time bringing the team under her leadership - everybody running with their own definition of Agile.
Apparently, the team did judge her!
How can you be the acknowledged and respected leader of a high-tech Agile team when your appearance communicates "I am a cat lady who loves knitting scarves"?!
One may argue that it is the "inside" that should matter - smarts, talent, drive. And yes it does - in the long run. However, we have about 4 seconds to make the first impressions that last really long time. Dress and appearance play a huge role in it.
Ladies, if we want to play the part, we should dress the part!
If you are in an environment where most of your male peers are suited up, you should be respectively well dressed up too. Choose your own style and personal brand - heels or flats, (moderate) makeup or no makeup at all, nails polished or natural, feminine cuts or clean lines, skirts or pants, suits or polished separates, but whatever you choose - make sure it communicates your professionalism and self-respect. And do spend a little bit of money on yourself - you've earned it! Your look speaks before you even open your mouth, and be cognizant of the message it sends.