Need a confidence boost at work? A new study suggests that — if you’re a woman — a low-cut top and sky-high stilettos may help your cause. According to a survey conducted by UK recruitment website HireScores.com, many women feel that they perform better at work when they dress “sexy.”
The study, which polled close to 1,300 British professionals, found that 78 percent of respondents felt that the way they dressed was the most important factor in enhancing their work performance. Of the women who agreed that the way they dressed made them better workers, 53 percent responded that “dressing provocatively helped their productivity.”
Lisette Howlett, managing director of HireScores.com, tried to explain the correlation between provocative attire and improved work performance in a company press release. “I was curious as to why women feel productive when they dress more provocatively and having checked this out concluded that this is because it gives them a sense of empowerment which in turn makes them more confident in the office. Indeed feeling confident and positive seem to be two key factors to high work performance, ” Howlett said.
Yet the number of women who feel that dressing provocatively can be equated with productivity seems unexpectedly high, especially given the recent case of Debrahlee Lorenzana — the curvaceous female banker who alleged that she was fired from Citibank for being “too sexy.”
After all, although Lorenzana made a case that the firing was unfair, the fact that her style of dress could be grounds for termination is, in itself, enough to spark a debate about whether dressing sexy at the office is worth the risk of losing your job.
And then there’s the argument that — while Lorenzana’s figure (whether enhanced or not) is decidedly not the concern of her male counterparts — it is still clear that she was viewed as a sex-symbol in her office; a counterproductive stigma for a woman looking to climb the corporate ladder. It seems that, while feeling attractive may provide a short-term confidence boost, in the long-run exuding a sexy image can have a negative impact on one’s career.
“Dressing provocatively will absolutely backfire on women who want to be taken seriously in the workforce,” says Lizandra Vega, author of “The Image of Success: Make a Great Impression and Land the Job You Want.” “Women may think that it gives them a competitive edge over other ‘less sexy’ women, but dressing in a provocative manner will hinder a woman’s chances of competing for senior level, highly authoritative positions that their male counterparts are also vying to attain. Dressing provocatively is associated with being a bimbo rather than a smart executive who can make intelligent decisions. Women may be able to get away with provocative dressing for jobs that are support level jobs (to men), but it will definitely hinder crossing the line to senior level, executive positions,” she says.
Though provocative dressing may not be the best way to get ahead, that doesn’t mean that women should be relegated to baggy pantsuits and clogs at the office, for fear of being “too sexy.”
Indeed, says Vega, a happy medium can be determined. Below, she helps establish the line between clothes that flatter and clothes that flaunt, with these guidelines for looking pretty, polished and professional in the workplace:
- Keep skirt hemlines right above the knee cap
- Maintain shirt buttons closed just enough where cleavage is not showing
- Wear comfortable pumps with a heel that is between 1/2″-2 3/4″ high.
- Leave strappy sandals, peep toe shoes and slides for weekend wear not office wear.
- Wear hosiery at all times.
- Wear undergarments that adjust and maintain your body parts in their proper place rather than having them jiggle and bounce.
What do you think about provocative clothing and the workplace? Let us know in the comments section, below.
For more information on dressing for the job you want, check out “The Image of Success.”