Do Blonde Females Get Taken Less Seriously In The Workplace?
13 September 2017
You don’t have to read the business pages too often to come across another bewildering story of outdated attitudes and misogyny in the workplace. You’ll remember the case of Nicola Thorp, the London receptionist was sent home for not wearing heels to work. Prior to this, there was the case of Melanie Stark, who was fired from Harrod’s for not wearing make up.
Yes, we still live in an age where – for women in the workplace in particular – appearance means everything. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are good enough for the job, qualified and hard working or have the right attitude to succeed, certain employers just want to know that you’ll look pretty when you’re talking to clients or customers.
So, I wasn’t in the least bit surprised to come across an article on BBC News the other day that detailed the story of Silicon Valley CEO, Eileen Carey, who dyes her blonde hair brown in order to be taken seriously in the workplace.
No, I’m not joking. This is an actual statement of fact that a highly successful woman, who has already proven herself in one of the toughest industries, feels like having a head full of blonde locks puts her at a disadvantage, particularly in such a male dominated sector of business.
Despite all of our efforts, including poignant messages for International Women’s Day every year, us ladies can still find ourselves on the backfoot in the workplace purely because of our appearance. We’re already getting paid less and disregarded as overly emotional part-timers … Now we have to look pretty in case our colleagues don’t like what they see.
The BBC article quotes Carey as saying: “ ‘We discussed that there's the fetishisation of blondes,’ says Carey. ‘People are more likely to hit on me in a bar if I'm blonde. There's just that issue in general. For me to be successful in this [tech industry] space, I'd like to draw as little attention as possible, especially in any sort of sexual way.’ It's not just hair colour either. Carey has swapped her contact lenses for glasses and says she wears loose-fitting "androgynous" clothes to work. She says, in a male-dominated working environment, her old look made it more likely she would be flirted with.”
You would think we had walked into an episode of Mad Men with this sort of carry on. Words like ‘fetishised’ have no place in an allegedly equal and safe workplace. What kind of colleagues is Carey working with that she has to make herself look unattractive or ‘unwomanly’ in order to avoid potential sexual harassment and to be viewed as an intelligent businesswoman? Why would a phenomenally successful woman feel the need to cave to such stereotypes?
I’ve been both brunette (for a short while) and blonde (for most of my life). I can honestly say, thankfully, that no one treated me differently for having either hair colour. Certainly, I’ve been on the receiving end of some rather tasteless ‘dumb blonde’ jokes but the fact that I have a Masters degree and can generally hold my own soon puts any negative connotations of my hair colour to bed.
It’s sad that Carey, who has more than proved her abilities, still feels like radical changes to her appearance is the only way to be listened to. Despite working in a truly modern, digital industry, she finds herself surrounded by thoroughly mediaeval attitudes.
Written By Mary Palmer