Something happened a few weeks ago that first surprised me and then made think how we might be playing with double standards.
Everything started with a short notice to attend a meeting with a potential client. I did not have enough time to prepare for it, about 30 minutes before the meeting I googled him. Turned out, he is a well-recognized lawyer, public speaker, the full package. I thought OMG why did I google him? Perhaps ignorance will prevent a panic attack.
I shared my hysterical moment with some friends, their advice was “smile to everything he says and wear a dress with nice cleavage”. This came from both male and female.
I couldn’t stop thinking, how today when we are fighting for equality, trying to demonstrate that women are as capable as men, we still have this mentality. Even as a joke, we must be careful with the message we are sending.
Am I overreacting… maybe, but what would your reaction be if a male colleague, who is in excellent shape, goes to a meeting with an open shirt so we can see his chest and abs?
Although the situation is not exactly the same, the intention behind the action is the same. The attention received is based on your look, rather than your knowledge on a particular matter.
I am not saying that we have to wear long dresses, neither that someone covered head to toes with clothes is more capable than a woman with a big cleavage nor that women have to dress like men to cover her femininity.
In my opinion, if we do not want to be treated as objects, we should not use our look to get attention in a professional environment. Otherwise, we are playing with double standards. In one side, we want to be respected based on our qualifications and at the same time we are flirting.
It could be tempting, it seems easy, everybody will be distracted and you will get some attention. Even though it might work with some people, this attitude can backfire badly.
We should ask ourselves, how would I like to be remembered? As the woman with a big cleavage or nice legs, who might be a good date, or as this smart, capable woman who is perfect for the job and is an asset for any organization.
In the same way how we raise our voices asking for equal treatment, we have to accept the responsibility that comes with it, understand that our words must be supported by our actions.
Some people may argue that men have to control themselves and we can wear whatever we want, I agree with that until certain extend, but everything has a place and a moment.
The sexual attraction will always exist; you can meet the love of your life in a business meeting, why not. Regardless, if we want to be taken seriously, we must forget the smile and cleavage advice and keep those sexy outfits outside the office, women do not need that to succeed.