Here’s an interesting article from the Texas Lawyer web site titled “Pretty Power: Don’t Hate Me Because I-m Beautiful”. The author, Melisa Dubose makes some interesting observations about how far a woman professional can go in using her positive female attributes to her advantage. Sit back and enjoy, but especially remember the message at the end of the article. Femininity will never trump competence. However, a combination of both may be the winning ticket.
Below is the article by Melissa DuBose for your reading pleasure.
Pretty Power: Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful
Melissa DuBose All Articles
October 31, 2011
Femininity: It’s a calculated risk that pays off in today’s legal market.
Some women lawyers watched Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde” and admired her approach, while others thought she was a complete moron. Sure, it’s just a movie, but art imitates life. Everyone has seen a pretty girl waltz in to a room or a job and get things handed to her on a silver platter. Elle, a modern day Hollywood example of femininity in the legal field, wasn’t just pretty; she was pretty damn smart, too.
There’s nothing wrong with using feminine attributes to get ahead in life. Hiding what women so obviously are — feminine — wastes energy. Attempting to stifle such an obvious fact in the workplace to somehow empower women seems illogical. Wielding femininity involves a calculated risk, but there is more to gain from accessing the power of feminine qualities than from suppressing that power.
It’s no secret that males dominate the legal profession. According to State Bar of Texas website statistics for 2011, men account for 67 percent of the attorneys licensed in Texas. Perhaps the anti-femininity crowd feels women should hide their femininity to gain access to the boys club. News flash: Most men find themselves attracted to women and enjoy their company. Men don’t want to spend all their time with other guys or with women acting and dressing like men.
I’ve heard countless men complain about female lawyers playing the tough, masculine role, trying to earn respect from male attorneys, when all it earns them is a reputation for difficult dealings. Some judicious use of girly power goes a long way when trying to get hired, negotiate a deal or snag a new client. For those arguing it’s inappropriate for a woman to get ahead this way, I say: Wake up and smell the coffee. Men often get ahead using masculinity: scotch or cigar with the boss, sports talk or a round of golf.
Femininity means something different for everyone. Some women are girlier than others. I propose that women be authentic. Let femininity shine through and see where it leads. Wear adorable pink suits. Rock those Jimmy Choos with 6-inch heels. Raise that hemline above the knee. Strut down the hallway. Freely engage in delightful conversation with male co-workers. Bat eyelashes. Giggle. Flash those pearly whites.
Everything in moderation, of course. Women lawyers should wear what makes them feel good. Being authentic helps women to utilize their emerging confidence to get ahead at work and in life.
Femininity empowers women, and the studies prove it. According to a July 19, 2010, article in Newsweek , attractive women make 4 percent more than unattractive women. So, pump up the pretty! Some women are born attractive, and others have to work at it. Putting effort into pretty pays off. Fix your hair, put on some lip gloss, and for heaven’s sake, mascara is a must.
Wardrobe matters, too. Sixty-one percent of managers surveyed by Newsweek for another July 2010 article said it’s advantageous for a woman to wear clothing showing off her figure at work. Dump the frumpy turtlenecks and comfy-casual slacks, opting instead for something stylish and fitted.
Appearance is only one aspect of femininity. The killer combo is a smart, attractive woman with a sparkling personality. Catherine Hakim, a sociologist at the London School of Economics and author of “Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom,” refers to this concept as “erotic capital” or “honey money,” which combines good looks and social intelligence, i.e., personality and the ability to relate to others. According to Hakim, using “erotic capital” can boost earnings by 10 percent to 15 percent.
It’s hard to deny that a smart, good-looking woman with a sparkling personality has things easier in life — opened doors, free admission to the corridors of power, opportunities galore. Everyone knows it, and some can’t help but hate such women for it. While not everyone can be a beauty queen, each woman can embrace her feminine charm, which is apparently half the equation.
Inevitable drawbacks come with challenging the status quo. How dare women lawyers go against what the career counselors in law school said? “Wear navy blue and black, hosiery and 2-inch heels with conservative accessories.” We dare to do so, because dressing like that is boring. Dooming a gal to that wardrobe until retirement is likely to send her into a state of depression.
Female lawyers of today face a conundrum. Do we wield our femininity into actual financial gain but risk being dubbed a bimbo by those who disapprove of women who violate the commandment not to draw attention to our awesome female power? What’s a girl to do?
It’s a calculated risk. Lawyers who have the intellect to back it up should flaunt their femininity. People who underestimate a smart, beautiful woman will regret it. Let them talk and be outsmarted. Their misjudgment will be to their disadvantage.
Never, however, should women make the mistake of thinking femininity is enough. Good looks and personality grease the wheels of life, making the ride smoother; sometimes they help a gal get to her destination more quickly, and they certainly can make life more fun. But, at the end of the day, every woman lawyer has to do the work — otherwise the bimbo label will stick.
While a woman lawyer who chooses to embrace her femininity may endure the short-term pain of colleagues believing she’s a subpar professional, her smarts will vindicate her over time. Soon, a fearlessly feminine woman will enjoy the long-term gain of being able to be herself at work, in addition to being respected for who she truly is: an empowered female attorney.
As for the women who still can’t help but hate her for it, they’re in the minority. No good lawyer can make everyone happy all the time. That’s why each woman must pick the route that makes her happy. Let the naysayers keep on saying “nay,” because femininity is here to stay.
Melissa DuBose is a solo practitioner focusing exclusively on criminal defense in Dallas and the surrounding counties.