Power Dressing for Success


“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it”. – Edith Head

“Dress shabbily and people will remember the dress, dress impeccably and people will remember the woman”. – Coco Chanel

We may not like it but it is a fact that we all judge people by the first impressions they make. Your image is important. According to a survey of business leaders published this year by the Center of Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, two-thirds said that when it comes to getting ahead, image makes a major impact.  Clothes we wear impact not only how we feel about ourselves but also our performance and productivity at work. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, subjects who donned doctors’ lab coats scored higher on attention-related tasks than did those who did not. Power dressing is a tool to convey the message that you are competent, able, ambitious, self-confident, reliable and authoritative. Definition of power dressing as per wikipedia is ” power dressing is a fashion style that enables women to establish their authority in a professional and political environment traditionally dominated by men.” Margaret Thatcher, one of the first female icons of power dressing summed up when asked how power dressing should be for women  “never flashy, just appropriate“.  Power dressing is particularly useful in leadership roles where trust and authority is expected.

Image Source:Van Heusen
  1. When in doubt, choose formal over casual: Better to end up more formally dressed than casually: Higher the position, more formal the dress code. Formals such as business suit make you look put-together, competent, and trustworthy. Irrespective of context of a meeting, for a leader it is safer to be formally dressed rather than err on casual dressing. If you would have noticed, Men CXOs can hardly be seen in anything other than business suits at least when it comes to business meetings. Unfortunately and fortunately women do not have a single approved dress code like  a business suit when it comes to power dressing. There is lot of variety of what all a  women can wear to work hence leaving scope for subjective judgement which can be good or bad depending on the person. If you are not sure, stick to commonly accepted formals for women such as pantsuits in western wear and churidar kurta in formal fabric such as cotton in Indian wear.
  2. Comfort is king or rather queen: Wear something which you are comfortable in and used to wearing. Do not attempt new styles for any important meeting where the discomfort from dress can distract you or make you conscious and less confident.
  3. Dress appropriately keeping in mind the audience and place. Be Roman in Rome. . Always factor in cultural sensitivities and mix of people you are going to meet.  Make sure what is normal for you for example short skirt or sleeveless top will be not be too bold for a conservative audience and place. If you are going to err, it’s better to be on conservative side than bold side
  4. Avoid revealing and bold clothes: You objective is to not look desirable rather to look business like and keep audience comfortable and focused on your capability rather than on your physical appearance. Studies have shown that wearing revealing clothes to work is negatively correlated with a positive opinion about woman’s capability. Stay away from low necklines, too tight clothes and bling jewellery.
  5. Choose the colors judiciously: Colours of your clothes play an important role in exhibiting power and confidence as colors already have established connotations. Accepted work colours are black (chic), navy (trustworthy), red (dynamic, aggressive), grey (conservative). Go for neutral colors and avoid bright ones like hot pinks, oranges and neons.
  6.  Appear groomed: Hair should be clean and set and should not appear unruly or unkempt. Studies have shown that makeup increases a woman’s confidence but keep makeup discrete and don’t overdo it. Clothes should be clean and ironed properly.
  7.  Wear well fitted clothes : Fit of clothes you wear is more important than your body size/shape and brands of clothes.. Do not opt for either too loose or too tight clothes.

Clothing sends out very powerful messages about who we are, so dress to make a positive impression, dressing for success is a necessary precursor to obtaining it.


How to close the Confidence Gap in Women ?

Image source: theatlantic.com

I volunteer as a mentor to students and working women on many forums and if I had to group the questions asked in different threads with common themes, can you guess which thread would have the maximum questions? It would be none other than Confidence gap. Right from school students to experienced working women, a common theme running in the background is ” I am not good enough” as evident in questions by school students in forms such as “I am not good at a particular subject or sport” and questions asked by working women, an example :” I don’t have good analytical skills” or have a drawback called “career gap” due to break taken to look after children. Many a times what the young girls and women see as skills gap is nothing more than actually a confidence gap.

The Importance of confidence building and why it should start early.

Confidence is key to long-term success and is underestimated for the role it plays. In fact I feel confidence building should be taught as a subject in schools right from kindergarten. Confidence is such an important trait that many a times what we see lacking in a child is actually lack of confidence more than anything else.I can not emphasise more on importance of building confidence in a child. Somewhere while growing up the confidence gap keeps on increasing in girls as compared to  boys. As per data from LeanIn, between elementary and high school, girls self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boys

Women have low self-esteem than men has been backed  by research.

A recent study by Wiebke Bleidorn, Ph.D., from the University of California, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, has found that the disparity in belief between men and women is universal.The eight-year study by Bleidorn her co-researchers analyzed data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, asking them to rate the phrase: “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem study found that across the board – regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women.”

Following are some ways which can help in closing the confidence gap in women

Don’t be apologetic about the dual responsibility of a mother and professional. Instead be proud

Wear your scars on your resume as a soldier or a sportsperson does. It is a proof of your carrying out a responsibility nature has entrusted upon you. I am sure every woman or man out there understands what role a mother plays in our lives.  It does not take away anything from you. In fact motherhood adds dimension to your personality and teaches valuable lessons on patience, prioritization of work and balancing between two important things career and family. What it actually means that you have managing two full-time jobs.

Keep working on your profile. Never take a break from it.

Working on profile does not mean making a new resume. It means working on creating things which can go on your resume. Make it a continuous process of adding value to yourself as a person and a professional. This can be done through many ways such as volunteering for NGO, contributing in networks, professional certifications, doing internships in areas of interest. Even if you are not working fulltime, you must keep working on your profile. By doing so, you not only add skill sets to your profile but also replenish any lost confidence during compromises made to balance career and family responsibilities.

The world will take your own verdict on you.

Be kind to yourself in your SWOT analysis which is the only analysis which really matters. See your skills positively.Confidence is defined as our belief in our ability to succeed at a given task, so what matters is how you rate your ability. Get rid of those lingering self doubts you have been harbouring since childhood.We all are work in progress. Everything can be improved and worked upon if you are willing to doIf you would doubt your own capability, how can you expect anyone else to do otherwise as who can know you better than yourself.

Confidence equality = Gender equality

Important piece in bridging the gender gap is closing the confidence gap. There is an unspoken bias in society where confident outspoken women are labelled bossy or worse bitchy and confident men are called assertive and displaying leadership potential. Being ambitious is a positive trait for men but not so for women.This long running bias has forced women to become subdued and submissive in order to earn the approval of people in workplace and society. This in turn makes women risk averse and more cautious in how they make career decisions. Over the time, women miss out on opportunities and do not realize their full potential.

Before expecting anybody else to do, women have to believe themselves more. Women have to nurture their own self-esteem as much as they nurture their loved ones. Women have to be as kind and compassionate to themselves as they are to others. Most importantly, women have to overcome their fears and stop overestimating the risks and underestimating themselves.To quote Sheryl Sandberg, “Fortune does favor the bold and you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try.” Give your dreams a try and you might surprise yourself more than others.

Women in workplace 2016 Study : a synopsis

Image source: http://www.forbes.com

Women in the workplace 2016 is a comprehensive study done by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Company to study the state of women in corporate America. Though the study was done in US, the findings are relevant for state of women in corporate India as well.

The research report headline itself tells what details we can expect inside. ” In corporate America, women fall behind early and continue to lose ground with every step” I must admit that as somebody who believes in championing the cause of advancement of women at workplace, I did feel depressed on reading those lines. Its 2016, we are talking about leisure trips to moon, driverless cars, cutting edge technology in every aspect of life and women are still struggling to get ahead at workplace. I wonder if this is the state in a developed country, how would be it in developing countries like India. Though we can see some women leaders in India specially in Banking Industry- Chanda Kochhar, Arundhati Bhattacharya, Naina Lal Kidwai to name a few, but these are  handful of women out of 1.8 million women working in organised sector in India. What’s happening to rest of women working in corporate India? The study throws some light on why we are not seeing more women at top of corporate world. The major reason being decreasing % of women in pipeline with increase in level of hierarchy as depicted by graph below.


Key findings from the women workplace study 2016.

  1. For every 100 women promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted

  2. Very few women are in line to become CEO

  3. Women are negotiating as often as men—but face push back when they do

  4. Women get less access to senior leaders

  5. Women ask for feedback as often as men—but are less likely to receive it

  6. Women are less interested in becoming top executives—and see the pros and cons of senior leadership differently

Key broader themes as per the study

# 1 : On average, women are promoted and hired at lower rates than men, so far fewer women become senior leaders  

Promotion rates for women lag behind those of men, and the disparity is largest at the first step up to manager—for every 100 women promoted, 130 men are promoted.

“Compared to women, almost twice as many men are hired from the outside as directors—and more than three times as many are hired as SVPs”.

# 2 : At more senior levels, we see women shift from line to staff roles, so very few end up on the path to becoming CEO.


By the time women reach the SVP level, they hold a mere 20 percent of line roles. This hurts their odds of getting the top job because the vast majority of CEOs come from line positions.

“In 2015, 90% of new CEOs were promoted or hired from line roles, and 100% of them were men.”

# 3 : Women are less interested in becoming top executives—and see the pros and cons of senior leadership differently from men

An expected reason behind this would be that women with children would find the dual responsibilities of a CXO position and home challenging but the startling result that even women without children are not interested in top jobs suggests that there are far deep-rooted beliefs women have about themselves and how they see the top job and its challenges.

– Women anticipate a steeper path to the top. Women who aspire to become a top executive are less likely to think they’ll get there than men with the same aspiration—and more likely to worry they won’t be able to manage work and family commitments.

– Women may not think their ideas and contributions carry the same weight as men’s. This could be rooted in the different experiences women and men are having in the workplace.

# 4 : People who do more work at home are less interested in becoming top executives

At every stage in their careers, women do more housework and child care than men—and there appears to be a link between the amount of work people do at home and their leadership ambition

“Women in senior management are seven times more likely than men at the same level to say they do more than half of the housework.”

It is a very important study and companies across the world should look at it carefully and design their gender equality strategies. Actually more than the plan, the bottleneck as always is implementation of the plan. Though gender equality at workplace is high on priority of CEO but slips away from the list when it comes to implementation. Companies have an important role to play in reaching gender equality in society at large by working sincerely towards achieving gender equality at workplace. A fairer, more inclusive work environment will lead to more engaged employees. A more diverse workforce will lead to stronger organizations which would lead to better business results. Long term benefits of gender equality at workplace go beyond companies and employees by not only strengthening the world economy but also making  world a fair and just place for half of its population. It is a worthy goal to go after!

You can read the complete report at link below.

Reference : https://womenintheworkplace.com/


The pursuit of beauty


How important is being beautiful to you? Is it directly linked to your self-esteem and self-confidence? Does it matter to you if others find you good-looking or not? Do you seek appreciation and approval from others on your physical appearance? Well, all these questions might seem trivial to most of men but not to most of women. From a girl next door to a celebrity, every women would have experienced doubts concerning her looks at some point in her life. The perceived beauty of self has tremendous impact on self-image and confidence level. As per a recent research, a child as young as 3 years starts questioning if she is pretty or ugly.

The whole beauty business starts early

This starts to show up even in children as young as 3. You go to any children’s birthday party and you would find how starkly different boys and girls are dressed. Girls will be dressed in all party wear dressy frocks with all accessories and frills. Boys would be in simple casual clothes such as tee-shirt and jeans. There is pressure and expectations on mothers of little girls to dress up their daughters. I agree that mothers get to play dressing up dolls game in real and it could be fun but the larger point is that we are setting expectation and norm for the young minds to follow as far as beauty is concerned. Sometimes children don’t want to dress up and we kind of force them to wear the heavy dresses with frills and all just to conform to the unofficially set dress code for girls.  It should also be perfectly okay for a girl to go to a birthday party in simple casual clothes like boys. By letting girls choose what they want to wear would not only teach them to be independent in their decision-making but also teach them to break free from gender and beauty stereotypes.

The created need of women to look beautiful and flawless

The whole cosmetic Industry is thriving on creating and sustaining need of women to look beautiful. I have always wondered why was being beautiful thrust upon women and not men in the same way. A man takes bath, wears ironed clothes, combs his hair, puts on a perfume and he is ready. A woman in addition to above things a man does goes on painting her face with all sort of chemicals and then she is ready. Women are bombarded with advertisements of beauty enhancing products such as  pimple removing creams, whitening creams, weight loss pills, anti ageing creams and so on. One constant running theme of such ads is that by using such products for example a pimple removing cream or skin whitening cream, a girl is shown achieving her goals which stereotypically are getting attention of boys and winning beauty pageants. What about the other goals girls may have such as topping an exam, getting a job, winning a game, excelling in career? Can these ads show that through use of cosmetic products one can achieve such goals? No, they can’t because success is not skin deep, it takes consistent hard work over the years, grit and strength of character to achieve long-term success and definitely you can’t show these virtues being built with a skin whitening cream. The whole industry is misleading the young minds and messing up their value system. I have always felt parents have such significant influence on holistic development of children as it is the parents who can guard the young impressionable minds from getting misguided. Parents should focus not only on ensuring measurable performance in studies or sports but also on ensuring that children develop right attitude, values and perspectives.


Unrealistic beauty standards to which women are subjected

My point is the difference of expectations and set standards for women and men when it comes to grooming and looking good. The attention to dress and make up can serve as distraction from a focus on studies or job at hand due to the absurd beauty standards to which women are disproportionately subjected. Society tends to objectify women with beauty classified as the greatest asset for a woman. Sometimes having physical beauty can be a hindrance in letting people see your talent beyond the appearance. You come across articles such as 10 most beautiful female IPS/IAS officers. Even cracking one of the most prestigious and toughest exam  does not let women to break free from age-old shackles of beauty defining a woman.

Myth of flawless and perfect beauty

Women can follow their pursuit of flawless beauty and glamour but one must understand that flawless beauty itself is a myth. When we think of beauty, we think of the celebrities donning the fashion and beauty magazines,  looking beautiful and groomed all the time. What we might not realize is that  flawless looks on magazines cover is a result of a rigorous schedule of diet and exercise, hours of make-up, teams of fashion stylists and make-up experts and on top of everything the use of technology such as Photoshop . Actress Sonam Kapoor busted the myth of flawless beauty in a recent article. I suggest every girl to read it. As per the article, Flawlessness is dangerous and high budget myth and its time we shattered it. Any expectations of flawless beauty from oneself and others is unsustainable and damaging in long run.

Pertinent questions women must ask 

Why is it responsibility and duty of every woman to look beautiful all the time? Why is being beautiful so important for being a woman. Why can’t we ourselves and others around us accept us as we are without any makeup and beauty procedures done, the way we accept men. Why looking good has become part of feeling good and confident. What changes before makeup and after make-up? You are the same person with same skill-sets.  Through thousands of years, this enormous responsibility of being beautiful has forced women to voluntarily do it on their own. Women’s self-confidence is depending on being beautiful which is dependent on use of cosmetic products and all the artificial procedures done to their body. Why nobody tells them that you don’t need to do anything to look beautiful, you are beautiful as you are. Having a kind and gentle heart is what makes you beautiful.  Why as handsome as it does is not used for women? Why not as beautiful as she does?

A radiant and genuine smile is the makeup which would make one look beautiful always. When I see a woman without makeup and with a confident smile, I respect her for I know she has freed herself from this responsibility of being beautiful all the time. She knows who she is and doesn’t need chemicals applied on her face and procedures done on her body to feel good about herself. We need more of such women!