Do career women have to power dress to be taken seriously?

10 Jan

It was inevitable with the release of the Iron Lady movie, about the life of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, that we would revisit the impact she has had on women over the years. Cue discussions about power dressing and the role of women in male-dominated environments.

Apparently it is some of her presentation choices – to deepen her voice and lower her hemlines – that women emulate when they want to be taken more seriously in the workplace. A survey from Business Environment says that 59% of London women have dressed more powerfully – ie with longer skirts and less cleavage on show – to get ahead in their careers. They will also lower their voice and yet wear more make-up

I’ve always dressed on the basis that the more flesh you show, the less you’ll be taken seriously in the workplace, and the more attention you bring to yourself for the wrong reasons. In fact, the survey says that dressing inappropriately is the most common reason among two-thirds of respondents for judging and disparaging a colleague.

However much modern women may emulate Thatcher’s sartorial choices, I doubt very much they will want to copy her management style, which was renowned for its rigidity. For a great view on this, read an article in Management Today, which questions whether women really want to be like Margaret Thatcher. I suspect the answer is no.


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