Can the Authoritative and Credible Woman also be Feminine?
Written on the 22 April 2008 by Patricia Gibson. Psychologist, Presentation Skills & Corporate Trainer.
Somewhere in the archives of your own history (if you are old enough), or in the history of our mothers is the well known concept of the double standard.
In conversational parlance, this loosely means that the same situation can be perceived from two value perspectives, which are usually significantly different.
Our society has moved quite a way from the moral double standards applied to women in bygone decades, yet the workplace and the Corporate Coliseum have been said to replace the theatre in which this double dilemma is played out in its subtle, yet present variations.
So what is the “Female Corporate Armor” ? Yes I realize I’m taking a dramatic turn of phrase, yet the era of the misguided notion that dressing powerfully, authoritatively and credibly for business means dressing like a man or dressing in neutral or dull colours is still, unfortunately with us.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that dark colours are all that bad Every one of us has the “little black dress”….. not dull, although dark, and worn with THAT pair of shoes or THOSE accessories!
The little black dress screams femininity, oozes mystery, and is generally a MUST have.
On the other hand, in nature the most spectacular and powerfully attractive living fauna and flora exist resplendently in glorious and vivid hues. Nature is the master palate co-ordinator. Let’s take a “leaf” from this palate and consider that authority and credibility can be achieved with a presence of femininity when wearing
• Cut and Style that flatters the feminine form without flaunting it.
• Colours that included a rich contrast, even in an accessory or minor piece
eg (the shirt under the suit).
• Specific colours that “speak” confidence and authority – there are a range of them from which to choose the most personally suitable for yourself eg. red, fucia, rich green etc.
• Accessories that suit and femininely flatter – eg. select pieces of jewelry.
It is said that there are only two basic emotions – love and fear, and that all others fit somewhere into those categories.
It is sometimes the case that women who are competent and confident in their particular career area know that they are “good at what they do”, yet run on the irrational fear that they may not be taken “seriously” if they dress in a feminine way, and then they try to dress to suppress their femininity.
That is a mistake, if femininity is a core aspect of you as a person.
Because to suppress such a fundamental element of identity is generally not going to bring you joy or indeed, even that outcome.
You can be environmentally aware and respectful of the mores of the workplace situation, AND express power and confident authority in your dress AND be proud to be feminine in appearance.
On two occasions recently I was called to be an expert witness in court processes, and I was impressed by the attire of both female judges. Strong yet feminine, beautiful earrings and necklace, each judge wore a lighter shirt and contrasting darker skirt and each looked every inch the woman, yet there was absolutely no mistaking who was the boss!
Our own Governor Quentin Bryce, is a fine example of dressing to express both strength and femininity, showing it can be achieved in many and various settings and situations.
Make no mistake- the thoughts you think define your world, and it is up to you to decide whether you want to hold a limiting thought such as “ if I look too feminine I won’t be taken seriously” or an empowering thought like “ I am feminine, it is a crucial part of my identity, and dressing authoritatively and femininely is an honest and comfortable expression of two complementary aspects of myself”.
The next critical aspect of being conscious of holding the thoughts that serve and support you is to know that your thoughts determine how you feel.
And we all know that when we feel good, confident and strong we are much more likely to succeed and inspire others. Expressing yourself with authenticity, ie. who you really are, is an essential foundation for confidence.
Our outside expression, (clothes etc) is a reflection of our inner world (thoughts, feelings). So, this is more important than just a matter of wardrobe, this is a matter of confidence and communicating to the world that you are authoritative and proud to be feminine, and that both aspects are part of your glorious identity.
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