Rebecca Zorowitz, a female entrepreneur and active blogger, had an interesting encounter at a trade show. A man in the adjacent booth remarked that all women at executive levels of power must walk, stand, and maintain the confident stature of a man. He pointed out a woman passing by who was wearing a skirt and blouse and gave her as the perfect example of a woman’s physical demeanor.
The woman walked alongside two businessmen attired in nice business suits. The man commented that her demeanor made her appear “like a man.” Zorowitz was appalled at the lopsidedness of this whole idea, and this writer is, too. Even the most powerful demeanor can be undermined by an appearance that suggests “entry level” instead of executive.
Obviously, it takes more than a change of demeanor to achieve success. Consider the woman in question with the skirt and blouse. Compared to the attire of the two men, the women’s casual attire gave her an overall appearance of far less power. Business suits convey authority and professionalism, and women need to dress on a par with men, not just act the way they do. Dressed in a skirt and blouse, in a boardroom setting, this woman would be asked if she’s there to take notes of the meeting.
Successful female executives recount that when they dress powerfully, they are accorded more respect and credibility. This creates an internal change that, in turn, produces a confident demeanor. It’s rarely the other way around. In other words, adopting a masculine demeanor but dressing like an entry-level employee rarely enables you to own the room.
The way you walk, stand, and “pose” is just one element in the persona of a successful businesswoman. The way you’re dressed can actually announce the outcome other people can expect from you. Obviously, a powerfully clad woman with a hesitant or timid demeanor comes across as an impostor. Body language cannot be ignored, even if it’s picked up only subliminally.
No matter how they choose to dress, some women still have doubts about whether or not to “act like a man” in business situations. After all, it’s acknowledged that men earn more than women even when they do identical jobs in the same firm.
A recent poll of the National Association of Women Business Owners asked their members this: “Have you ever suppressed your feminine side in an effort to succeed in business?” Here are the results: No - 55 percent; Yes, a little - 31 percent; Yes, a lot - 14 percent.
What’s a woman to do? Is it necessary to behave differently when you’re outnumbered by men in your daily business environment? For example, do you change the way you walk, talk, or dress? Do you play up your feminine side? Or do you behave more like men do? Here are suggestions:
• Stand and sit straight with squared shoulders and “proud chest.”
• In meetings with men, use your deeper voice; resist a high-pitched voice.
• When interrupted, state firmly, “Let me finish, please.”
• Practice with a friend to make certain you have a firm handshake.
• Men do not lose ground when they are aggressive; women do. Always strive for a “win-win” outcome rather than wanting to win at all costs. It will earn you respect and will distinguish you from your male counterparts whose goal is to win.
• Do not cry in a business situation; men are compelled to rescue “damsels in distress” and you will be seen as weak.
• For the highest authority, wear a suit or jacket. Limp fabrics and frilly styles convey low authority.
• Skirted suits convey more authority than pantsuits, since they are more formal.
• Darker colors convey higher authority, so avoid pastels.
• Accessories and professional makeup give you a more polished and professional appearance.
• A dated hairstyle suggests your skills are also dated. Update your hairstyle if you haven’t done so in more than ten years.
• University studies concluded that the taller you are, the more you earn. Wearing two- or three-inch heels not only looks professional, it can help level the playing ground with men in terms of height.
• Suggestive attire will get you labeled a bimbo. Avoid cleavage and garments that are too short, too revealing, too tight.
• Grooming must be immaculate: clean, nail, hair, shoes, garments.
Sandy Dumont is an international expert in the arena of professional image. For more information about her Stiletto Camps for women, contact her at 757.627.6669 or www.theimagearchitect.com.
Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect, is a sought-after stylist and image consultant in the arena of corporate, political and celebrity image and has spoken to audiences throughout the USA, Europe and Asia. Sandy is a prolific writer and has published numerous books, eBooks and DVDs. Her books and speaking style employ psychological insights into how we perceive color, judge wardrobes and incorporate (or don't) social norms into our daily lives.
Sandy is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and Past President of NSA Virginia, and Past President of the SE Virginia chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO. She consults with individuals and corporations and also conducts corporate and individual image makeover workshops on the subject of impression management and image skills. Sandy is also a keynote speaker at conferences both nationally and in Europe and Asia. She also does online image consulting and image makeovers for individuals and groups.
Sandy Dumont has appeared on radio, TV and in print throughout the world. She was recently featured in a cover story with Money Magazine. In December 2009, she was the recipient of the Women in Business Achievement Award.
Sandy Dumont, The Image Architect, is MORE than an Image Consultant. For information, visit www.theimagearchitect.com or call 757-627-6669.Website: www.TheImageArchitect.com