proper attire

Bharathi Jagadeesh bjag at
Tue Aug 11 00:42:55 EST 1998

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.


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