“So many interviewers have asked, “What are you going to wear?”. They never ask that of a man, everybody knows what the man’s going to wear!”
Conductor Rebecca Miller is currently championing piano concertos by women composers. In the business world, leadership roles have certain expectations, such as business smart, but here is a female leader speaking of the importance of dress, to which she has given considerable thought
“So many interviewers have asked, “What are you going to wear?”. But I realized that it’s not a foolish question. I’m not height of fashion, but the concept of what I wear holds much more symbolism for me. Your body is involved, and there is nothing to hide behind, so you must know who you are and be comfortable within your own skin.
A body language of insecurity, not being open, makes everybody else insecure. It is my job to make the musicians in front of me feel comfortable in order to give their best.”
Apparel is obviously one of the crucial issues of our time for women, which is why a select committee is looking into pressures on women to wear heels or dye their hair blonde. I don’t think anyone ever suggested that Karen Brady, or Helena Morrissey go blonde. The assumption is that women only appear in subservient or decorative roles, and it is deeply embedded in English culture.
In the current turmoil and changing world we face, women’s dress is one of the most important issues. The Equalities committee previously looked into how women are disadvantaged, by maternity leave and lack of equal pay, but then the world changed and it was pushed to the background again. Since 1968 we’ve had legislation for equal pay, but just one example can show how difficult it is to implement in the age of austerity:
“A ruling at the Supreme court means Birmingham City Council is facing a shortfall of about £200m to settle equal pay claims brought by mainly women who missed out on bonuses. Birmingham City Council may be forced to sell the NEC to pay off £1bn wage bill after losing historic unfair pay case. “ The Independent reported.
But back to high heels. The Committee of Women and Equalities has 11 members, with few representing minorities or diversity. The usual Westminster bubble. The recently appointed chair, Maria Miller is juggling Education, as well as Women and Equalities. Surely we need a separate portfolio, for women’s equality, and by extension for all aspects of equality. A focus on discrimination against women will show up the other areas.
Pressure on women to conform in dress is based on the flawed embedded assumption that working women are all decorative receptionist, or play decorative roles serving clients. I don’t think tea ladies, dinner ladies or cleaning ladies are required to be blonde or wear heels. An interesting use of the word lady, for the more menial, low paid tasks. Don’t refer to a professional woman as a lady.
The question of whether women should wear high heels, is fatuous if we look at either scientists or engineers,
“Crossrail inspires budding women engineers … (29%) of people working for Crossrail Ltd are women, compared to just 20% of the construction industry workforce.”
They are likely to be wearing hard hats, rather than blonde hair, and high heels would be extremely unlikely. What about black women, Asian women from all different cultures? What about other areas of discrimination?
Comments on clothing are fair game. Teresa May made her “kitten heels” her signature, and spike heels can be a very useful weapon, if needed, but you can’t run in them. Much was made of Michael Foot wearing a duffel coat to the Cenotaph, and Ken Clarke was always teased about his hush puppies. (Which, for the record, are a far more expensive maker.)
Almost any article in the news, can be questioned as to the underlying assuming that society is comprised of all white male middle to upper class. You don’t knotice it, especially as you’re taking a quick glance on your phone or tablet which doesn’t give time to reflect or question. Try this little exercise. Take any news item which caught your attention. Question what are the implications for just these 3 groups, middle aged businessmen, the housewife, the black lawyer.
More visible women in important roles, are needed. In the media, on TV as anchors, in war zones.
We have some amazing women reporters in the most dangerous places. Like the men, a helmet and flack jacket is their primary dress.