Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
I was watching a business channel, CNBC, the other day and it struck me – every woman commentator was glamorous and the men, well, not so much. Why, on a television show devoted to business, must the women be on the younger side with lots of hair and make-up – while the men are mostly aging and craggy (read here: normal)? I realize it’s not uniformly the case, but when you think about it, women on TV are too often portrayed as sexy and attractive – frequently in stark contrast to their male counterparts.
There are a number of good examples. In the popular series “House” on FOX, the female character who is head of the hospital (as well as the female docs on the medical team) is gorgeous and wearing improbably low cut tops and skirts two sizes too small. These women may be in charge and brilliant, yet they also are made to look like Barbie dolls. Same situation on many other shows featuring women professionals – I’m sure you can think of some.
Why is this necessary? As a viewer, and speaking for myself only, it’s hard to identify with these perfect creatures. It diminishes their credibility – and perhaps a little of the viewer’s self-esteem. It’s unrealistic – and yes, it’s entertainment – but it is also displaying an image that’s impossible for us ordinary folk to live up to. And, if we actually tried to look that way in real life, there would be consequences that television doesn’t portray.
The way we project our workplace image in ‘real life’ influences our colleagues’ perceptions of us and their actions toward us. The presence we exude either adds to our credibility, or weakens our image. Too much of anything is a distraction from your message – and not in a positive way. If your outfit is too tight, too short, too low, too loud, too trendy, too accessorized, the focus will be on externals rather than your messaging. If the folks in a meeting are studying the wild earrings you’re wearing, they probably aren’t listening fully to your report. If the guy in the next office is looking at your cleavage, it’s doubtful he’s thinking of your brains and productivity.
Whatever you want to express in your style has to be tempered with reality. If women are to be taken seriously, we cannot emulate most of the women on television – remember, they’re not real!
How do you see it? Please share!