Another little gem from the corporate world, kindly “helping” women along who may have forgotten that it is actually the men that run the show!
This time it regards a New York University Professor Anna Akbari who has put out some fashion advice for female summer clerks in the legal profession. According to Akbari, it is still important for women to dress for the men in male dominated professions such as law. To Akbari this means opting for a “skirt-suit” rather than a “pants-suit” and if you have to wear pants, combining them with something more “feminine” on top. This will ensure you are more “appealing” to men and thus the majority of interviewers. For a great criticism of Akbari’s advice see the article by Katie J.M Baker at Jezebel.com http://jezebel.com/5916586/forget-the-glass-ceiling-we-have-hemlines-to-consider
As Baker points out, as much as this kind of advice harks back to the 1950’s making us feel like we have taken a step backwards, there is a very real issue facing young women who are trying to break into their profession. It is one thing to be a trail blazer standing up for your rights, but what if that has very real consequences for your chances of being employed at all. What is the solution? Should we, just try and get the job using whatever it takes, even if that means appealing to some misogynistic view of how women should dress?
Even if this is the reality, Baker makes a good point about not reinforcing these stereotypes whilst advising women how to get ahead. Any such advice should arguably not shy away from the realities which still exist for women in the corporate world, however should also guide women as much as possible towards ways in which we can make our mark without reinforcing the stereotypes. It may be that in some situations a ‘skirt suit’ will help us get the job, but lets not pretend that this is anything but an outdated view of the world which women can help fight against once they are in the establishment. It is our responsibility to the next generation of women to change these views once we are interviewing for jobs.