proper attire

C. J. Fuller cjfuller at
Tue Aug 11 08:47:18 EST 1998

In article <35CFC578.5C7E at>, bjag at wrote:

>We've talked a bit in the past about the frequency with which women
>faculty members are mistaken for secretaries, technicians, research
>assistants, students, . . .
>It happened to me again recently -- I arrived for an appointment with a
>department chairman, only to be asked by the secretary something to the
>effect of whether I needed a drop card signed -- she had mis-identified
>me as a medical student. 
>That got me thinking about the different reasons people make that
>mistake. Contributing factors probably include assumptions made on the
>basis of age, sex, height, and race, things that none of us can do
>anything about. But, I suspect that clothing is something that also
>makes a difference, and clothing is something that can be changed. 
>In some other fields, advice given includings dressing conservatively,
>in suits and other standard professional attire, and copying those who
>are senior to you. 
>This is a problem in science, since there are so few examples, and
>because too "professional attire" can also be considered improper
>(inappropriate for the laboratory, too dressed up, etc.). 
>So, what do people consider appropriate clothing for female faculty
>member in the following activities?
>1) interviewing for a junior faculty position
>2) teaching classes
>3) interviewing for a post-doc
>4) working in the lab
>5) attending a meeting
>6) giving a presentation at a meeting
>7) giving a presentation at a university
>8) giving a presentation at a K-12 school.
>In writing this, I realized that the women faculty members I know do
>generally dress nicely, in skirts and dresses. But these women are at a
>level where they do not physically work in the laboratory, making the
>decision easier. 
>I'll close by making an argument for why this isn't a frivolous topic.
>It really is easier if people identify you as a faculty member when you
>appear, rather than a 19-year old summer student. People will (and
>should) treat you differently.

Our dept here is quite casual.  Most of the males on faculty wear jeans
and shorts, even on days when they teach.  (Our chair wears ties on very
rare occasions.)  I'm the only female faculty member who does much
slogging in the lab right now.  During the summer and on days when I'm not
teaching I'll dress down, especially when I've got stuff to do in the
lab.  On days when I teach, I'll at least wear decent trousers, and
sometimes a skirt or dress.  Suits I save for scientific meetings,
interviewing (which I hope NOT to have to do in the near future), and
giving presentations.  The jacket serves mostly to stay warm in the midst
of runaway air conditioning in those convention centers.  

Female faculty around here are frequently mistaken for secretaries.  I had
someone do that to me a couple of weeks ago.  I usually politely correct
the person.  I just wish that someone would mistake one of the guys for
someone with a different title once in a while.


C.J. Fuller
<mailto:cjfuller at>
<mailto:cjfuller at>

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