Women, Are We Feeding Sexism?

Over the last few days here in the UK, a storm has raged over sexism in the work place. On the programme “The Big Question” on Sunday, two women were discussing sexism in the board room. One had long blond hair, full make up, lots of cleavage on show, long tanned legs and very high heels. The other woman had very short cropped hair, no make-up or jewellery, and wore a jacket and tie. Both had apparently used a typical businessman’s attire as their reference, one determined to be the opposite and display her female assets to the hilt, the other determined to be as similar and appear as “masculine” as possible.

Part of me feels sad that we women are trying to compete on the same (unequal) running track as men. I want us to get off the track and go and play our own unique game and make up new rules that work for us. For example, now I am older I tend to wear the colours and styles that suit me rather than the company I happen to be working with.

Another part of me recognises that, on occasions, particularly when I am going to meet a potential corporate client for the first time, or speak at an engagement, I dress to fit the culture, and not undermine or distract from my message in any way. This for me means smart, feminine and conservatively dressed.

I know this will be controversial but if, as a woman, I am confused by women who in my view over-emphasise their femininity, what chance have men? While I have no time for sexism and agree that offenders should be reprimanded, I don’t really understand women who dress provocatively and then complain about men looking at them. I had a hard time not looking at how low the woman on the programme’s dress was cut and how short the skirt was. At best, if the men she works with are concentrating on looking at her only from the neck up, in order to stay out of trouble, they aren’t fully concentrating on what she is saying. Are some of us women trying to have the best of all worlds and using our looks to our advantage but complaining about men’s reactions when it doesn’t work in our favour?

Help me out here!

  • What are your own experiences and views?
  • Should women in the corporate world dress for themselves, or their environment?
  • What is the best way to remove this from the agenda totally?