Let’s talk about looking like a professional—or not.
First, I will readily declare that I am not the preeminent businesswoman. I have worked in various businesses throughout my careers. I’ve worked where jeans and shorts were permitted and I’ve worked where suits-only were the protocol. So don’t go by me, but tell me what you think of some observations I’ve made.
I recently attended a business workshop. Key word in that sentence? “Business.” I’ve gone to many workshops over the years and always dress business casual. For me, that term means a dress, dress slacks or skirt with blouse/cardigan/suit jacket. With a mad passion for scarves, if I can toss one of those on, I do it. That said, the first thing that always amazes me is when the attendees show up in jeans or worse, sweats.
Except for the first comment, the below happens to apply to women because this particular workshop contained 95% females.
The first presenter was bad–his presentation was too vague to be any good. And he was wearing toe-shoes. I’m never going to take anyone seriously when they’re wearing toe shoes. Ever. But particularly not when they are supposed to be a subject matter expert on a business topic I want to learn about.
There was a woman across the aisle from me. She was in her late fifties, early sixties, wearing one of those long dresses that she might have had since the 1970s that are popular again. Not sure why they made a return–they were difficult to walk in and unflattering back in the day. This was a halter-type and she was not un-endowed, so her breasts looked like they could pop out any moment. In addition to her beach attire, she was knitting. YES, knitting.
A woman in front of me—also in her fifties–had hair the whole way down her back. She played with it incessantly. It was up in a ponytail. It was down. It was twisted in a knot. It was off to the side. It was all in the back. Good heavens! I got dizzy watching her.
This kind of thing makes me crazy.
Women are still dealing with a low Glass Ceiling. We need to do what we can do to excel and lift ourselves up. I observe this kind of behavior, which clearly shows us as looking less businesslike than men. We have that one initial moment to make a first impression. I would not like to be remembered as the woman in flip-flops at a networking event.
As I was telling Alex this story, we tried to think of one comparable thing a man could do during a meeting that would equal this distracting unprofessional behavior. We couldn’t come up with any. I have seen men in workshops wearing jeans, but usually, it is a part of their business attire, such as jeans and a corporate polo shirt. I still disagree with it in a business setting, but I understand it.
What do you think? Am I being a bit extreme in my observation or have you seen the same things and reacted the same way?
PS. Keep in mind that I think the entire world would be a better place if we could wear jeans (or our comfortable attire of choice) to work. But sigh, that’s just not the way it is.