Success, with Style

Posts tagged “Fashion

Diversity and Inclusion: Dealing with Gender Norms at Work

Posted on March 12, 2015

Law schools should stop reinforcing gender norms by telling women to wear dresses and skirts to job interviews and to work.

When I was a law student preparing for On Campus Interviewing (“OCI”), the law school administrator gave tips on how to dress appropriately for interviews. She told the men to wear suits and told the women to wear what has traditionally been deemed “feminine attire” – dresses and skirts. She made these advisory statements without regard to the individuals in the room, without regard to the effect that her reinforcement of gender stereotypes would have to at least some of the students who looked to her for guidance.

It’s not just law schools that stifle individuality and try to force diverse students into bland boxes. Work environments, particularly within the legal profession, do it too. Employee handbooks often have guidelines for what constitutes proper work attire. These guidelines usually divide employees into categories of men and women and then proceed to tell the men what is acceptable to wear, e.g., on Fridays in the Summer, it is appropriate to wear short sleeve polo shirts with khakis. For the women, they advise us not to wear skirts, dresses, and shorts that are too short, not to wear open-toe sandals, and to keep our shoulders covered.

You cannot promote diversity and inclusion if, at the same time, you reinforce gender norms and stereotypes. The way to effect change is to actually change

  • PRO TIP 1: Revise employee dress guidelines to remove the arbitrary divisors that distinguish between what men and women should wear. Employers can just as easily provide guidance on professional attire without ascribing masculine and feminine gender norms to entire categories of workers.
  • PRO TIP 2: Have confidence in the people hired to fulfill the organization’s mission. Employees are hired because they are believed to be competent. As an attorney, I can say that lawyers are usually hired because, at the least, they are intelligent, communicative, and know how to think critically. These people don’t need employers to tell them when and how to conform to gender stereotypes and norms that they may not subscribe to.

Your ability is not determined by whether you wear dresses. 

I got jobs and did well at interviews by being my self: skilled, engaging, inquisitive, creative. I kept jobs by working hard, anticipating needs, and engaging with my coworkers and employers. I received positive feedback from employers by performing my duties well. Not once did I wear a dress or skirt to work or to an interview. 

Related: 5 days of dapper in the workplace
Related: January Look Book Pt. II – I Define my Dapper

Work: 5 Days of Dapper

Posted on March 9, 2015

As a lawyer, I can say without hesitation that I am not who you usually envision when you think of “lawyer” or “attorney.”

In fact, I usually get raised eyebrows when people ask what I do and I tell them, “I’m a lawyer.” There is an implicit bias associated with certain professions. I get it. I look young, I don’t subscribe to the traditional conservatism that one usually associates with lawyers or the legal professional. I am not a White male. You don’t think of me when you think “Lawyer.”

I am here to change that, not just for myself, but for people like me: people whom American society has worked for generations to relegate to the margins. My job is to bring my full self to the table, from the margins to the center.

I am unapologetically Black, Lesbian, Androgynous, Gender Non-Conforming, Intelligent, Caring, Creative, and Stylish. I define myself, for myself. I affirm myself and I encourage you to do the same.

Style: Casual Distinction

Posted on March 4, 2015

Personal style is intentional and should reflect your personality. I’m pretty laid back; most things no longer get me riled up. At the same time, I take myself and life very seriously, as we all do (or at least we should). Therefore, my style tends to strike a balance between formality and frivolity. It’s what I call “casual distinction.” My wardrobe consists of modern, vintage, a touch of trendy, but mostly classic, elements.

While traveling to Southern California, Los Angeles and San Diego, my style choices reflected the laid-back nature of SoCal, but also included dapper accents. It was Casual and Distinguished.

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