back to article Women in IT: ‘If you want to be taken seriously, dress like a man’

I am female, and I work in IT. I’m not in sales or in management; I am a systems engineer on a team that maintains and supports critical systems for an international, multi-billion-dollar company. I fight the fires, troubleshoot the issues and design systems. So much has been written about the need for more women in IT, but I’ …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its not just you..

    "The squeeky wheel gets the grease"

    I'm not an expert in being a girl, seeing as I'm a guy in IT. But i'd offer a suggestion that it wasnt just that you're a girl, but the fact is if you make a big song and dance about being amazing and awesome you get noticed.

    Some of us guys also just blend in, keep our heads down and dont cause a fuss. We get sidelined and bypassed too.

    Best piece of advice I've ever heard was to advertise your successes. It had some buzzword which I've long forgotten, but essentially it was to be (cliche) American. Whoop, WOOT, high five and let everyone know how great you / the team / the project / the product are.

    Many good IT teams I've worked on have just kept their heads down and 'got on with it'. Work comes in, work is done, next... Perfectly efficient, no hassles. But zero acknowledgement.

    Other omnishambles I've seen, costing 100's millions over years, carried on regardless because they developed their own aura of 'success'. With at least a small amout of judgement to jump before the iceberg.

    I've not had the nerve to act on it yet, but theres no denying if you act the part people start believing it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Its not just you..

      "I'm not an expert in being a girl, seeing as I'm a guy in IT. But i'd offer a suggestion that it wasnt just that you're a girl, but the fact is if you make a big song and dance about being amazing and awesome you get noticed.

      Some of us guys also just blend in, keep our heads down and dont cause a fuss. We get sidelined and bypassed too."

      Allow those people to make a big song and dance. Then ridicule their failings, of which there will be many.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Its not just you..

        Ridicule never got anyone anywhere. It can be loads of fun, but isn't constructive.

        There are risks with the song and dance routine, but more often than not someone will be impressed with it, eventually. If you do nothing to get noticed then you won't get noticed.

        A really good way to get noticed would be to tell the song and dance person what they did wrong when they failed and help them fix it for next time. You could be the next Steve Ballmer...

        1. Ted Treen

          Re: Its not just you..

          ..and it's not just your sex.

          I started in the mid 70's (when I was in my mid 20's) and I still come across youngsters (<30) who seem amazed that a doddery old fossil like me can actually work a computer - despite my having cut my teeth on wood-burning steam-powered computers - but it's still a delight to see the look on their faces when I sometimes solve a problem quickly & easily which has had them stuck for an hour or more.

          Sure, they do have the necessary knowledge: it's just that sometimes they don't have the experience to know which bit of knowledge to apply, and how & where to apply it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Its not just you..

            They're idiots; I arrived here as a wet-behind-the-ears graduate, very aware of the fact I knew nothing.

            As I learned more and gained experience I realised the only person worth asking technical questions was a contractor in their 50's.

          2. RobHib

            @Ted Treen - Re: Its not just you..

            "I still come across youngsters (<30) who seem amazed that a doddery old fossil like me can actually work a computer"

            I know 'em!

            I've also a background in electronics, whereas most IT types have only a superficial knowledge. One waits an opportunity to solve an electronic problem--especially where's there's an analog explanation, i.e.: (Np/Ns)^2 or f=1/(2 pi LC)^1/2 or a myriad of others and watch 'em just go to water. If done with care and not overplayed, surprising how respect develops.

        2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: "Ridicule never got anyone anywhere"

          It's also rarely kept anyone from getting somewhere.

          I mean we've all laughed at Monkeyboy, and many (including me) are cheering at his departure, but the fact is he's still got more money than 99% of the world put together.

        3. John Tserkezis

          Re: Its not just you..

          A really good way to get noticed would be to tell the song and dance person what they did wrong when they failed and help them fix it for next time.

          In some jobs, this is a never-fail reciepe for getting yourself sidelined. It contrasts with the self-preservation philosophy of "never, ever help anyone", "always cover your arse" and, "if anyone screws up, whatever the reason, publicly lambast them" techniques that are prevalent there. Thinking back on some of the more horrid tech jobs I've held, it's kinda like australian politics really... Sigh.

      2. anonimous

        Re: Its not just you..

        Sure. But those ridicules of others' failures will be disregarded just as your accomplishments were.

        This week I had the same reality check. After a very long stretch (2 years) of work overload, which I accepted "for the good of the team", I see that others who did a fraction of the work but had the time to too their horns are viewed as "more valuable team members".

        Morale: allocate less time for actual work and more time for blowing own horn. It's not the real work that gets rewarded. It's the "visibility".

    2. Scott 62

      Re: Its not just you..

      >I'm not an expert in being a girl, seeing as I'm a guy in IT. But i'd offer a suggestion that it wasnt just that you're a girl, but the fact is if you make a big song and dance about being amazing and awesome you get noticed.

      Best. advice. Ever.

      At my last job there were three of us on the night shift, we came in, kicked arse every day and got our heads down, quietly being awesome, generally doing much more per shift than the day shift guys.

      However, they made a big song and dance about the stuff they did and as a result were getting 40%-50% more for less work...but then again the culture at that place was very much "you get paid what you can blag" rather than what you can actually do

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Its not just you..

      "Some of us guys also just blend in, keep our heads down and dont cause a fuss. We get sidelined and bypassed too."

      Maybe true for you and others. But there are others still who keep their heads down, don't cause a fuss but don't blend in because of their obvious exceptional talent. Almost without exception, the truly talented people I have worked with are quiet and humble - they know they are good but they don't need to shout about it. If I hear a squeaky wheel who doesn't have the talent to justify the noise, I replace it.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Its not just you..

      Sorry for the harshness, but there is too much self pity in this article. The author is unable to accept any personal failure as just that, and instead blames those around her. Her successes, on the other hand, are all her own doing. A more balanced view would be better, with an admission that we are not perfect, and sometimes other people do produce better work for legitimate reasons. It is not something to worry about.

  2. Yag

    Quite sad...

    and it's unfortunately the case in most technical jobs. The few females in our crew get some strange looks at them when they DARE wear a skirt.

    at least the "change my hair colour as often as Microsoft releases security patches." part made me smile.

    1. Gerhard Mack

      Re: Quite sad...

      Part of doing desktop support means crawling under desks. Part of doing server support means crawling around under raised flooring or having an up and close look at some dusty cable duct. If you are wearing clothing not fit for those tasks than regardless of gender, I'm not going to take you seriously.

      1. Cari

        Re: Quite sad...

        Perhaps you should try wearing skirts. I find they afford greater freedom of movement when crawling under desks. Modesty is maintained if you wear thick, dark tights with them also.

        I would note though, at least in my job crawling under desks is a small part of it, so I dress sensible but presentable over stereotypical "IT Guy" and found I leave a better impression than my male colleagues.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Quite sad...

          Perhaps you should try wearing skirts.

          Asked, denied by management. Well, if they didn't have stupid "no shorts" policy, I wouldn't have needed.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Quite sad...

            Claim to be Scottish, wear a kilt and refer any complaints to the Facefull o' heid department. Problem solved.

      2. NoOnions

        Re: Quite sad...and sort of

        I work in The City and am expected to wear a suit, shirt and tie, despite crawling under desks, installing switches, servers, PCs etc. From from ideal work wear. Cheap suits from Asda and M&S are a Godsend!

      3. The Jase

        Re: Quite sad...

        There is a reason I wear a cheap suit. I spend too much time crawling in the dirt to wear anything better and ruin it.

        Mind you, I am damn good at my job and my customers love me.

        1. Jediben

          Re: Quite sad...

          You are Jason Thorne and I claim my £5!

      4. Sandra Greer


        At one time, for my sins, I did some visiting tech support at mostly Orthodox Jewish firms. I wore my Yentl outfit, consisting of an ankle-length skirt, tights, and a long-sleeved blouse. It was fine for crawling under desks, actually. Of course anything shorter would have been much less appropriate.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boys club

    Working with lots of "IT Guys" over the years I'd say that I do mistrust the "Glamourpuss" - male as well as female.

    I expect the IT people to look like they're dressed to do work. And that might mean scrabbling around a badly sited server etc. So smart, but practical.

    And this also applied to my own professional (not IT) team. Women or men who turned up for work looking like fashion plates always had me wondering what they were trying to say about the job.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Boys club

      Exactly. The jeans/polo isn't so much "male attitre" as 'job uniform". Anyone not in uniform stands out. I'd get as many weird looks if I turned up for work in evening dress as my female colleagues would if they showed up in a miniskirt & Jimmy Choos.

      Try showing up for work in a city lawyers office in jeans and a T-shirt, and no matter what sex you are you'll not get much further than making the coffee.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Boys club

        Bah, I got told I needed to stop wearing jeans and trainers after some businessey suit types from down south started turning up in the office. Although I've not bothered speaking to them, I don't like them very much.

      3. LazyLazyman

        Re: Boys club

        Yes. Go in to any office up and down the country and you will see the same thing. Men wearing a shirt and tie. You will see about 1/4 of the women wearing inappropriate clothes. From fleece and vest top to looking like they are going to a night club. It seems allot of women do not understand how to dress appropriately in an office. It is all about wearing clothes appropriate to the environment you are in. Men don't wear ties because we like them, and it urks some of us when we see women not fitting in to what is seen as appropriate and getting away from it.

        Unfortunately in the case of IT this can mean crawling under desks and behind servers in dusty rooms. Wearing expensive clothes and full makeup dose not give the impression that you are ready to do this.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Boys club

          Couple of points.

          Ties are the only mandated item of male apparel that has no functional use other than to get into your coffee/food when you sit down. Forcing people to wear them should be illegal.

          There is one thing that many women put on for the workplace that should also be banned, and that is scent. Deodorant or anti antiperspirant by all means, but scent never. The are some offices that you go into and the smell of perfume is overwhelming. It isn't sexy (why are you trying to be sexy in the workplace?), nice or subtle.

          1. Daniel B.

            Re: Boys club

            Agreed on the ties ... they're HORRIBLE. But then I hate the whole suit & tie requirement and will only use it when actually asked for at a workplace.

            I'm probably not in the average population concerning women's dress codes; I do not complain about what a woman wants to wear to work. Except for high heels in an IT job, mostly because oh dear, it's going to be quite a challenge if you have to work on the IT gear...

          2. Nuke

            @AC 08:15 - Re: Boys club

            Wrote :- "There is one thing that many women put on for the workplace that should also be banned, and that is scent..... The are some offices that you go into and the smell of perfume is overwhelming. "

            Not only women. There was a guy at our work who wore some kind of perfume, very strong. If he came to see me I would open the window afterwards, or it would linger for 10 minutes. You could tell where he was in the building by following the scent


      Re: Boys club

      The idea of wearing bland practical clothing should be nothing new to anyone in an IT job since this also tends to be the case for the relevant University students too.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    But what does a woman dress like?

    "We talked about keeping my hair pulled back and wearing more neutral attire like the rest of the guys on the team. I took his advice: I traded my heels and Ann Taylor outfits for Gap khakis, button-down shirts and comfy Clarks."

    And this basically tells us (us men anyway) absolutely nothing. It makes me wonder if the way you dressed was the problem factor and not so much the fact you wore womens clothing.

    The reason I'm wondering is because when I look up 'Ann Taylor' or 'Ann Taylor outfits' I see a lot of outfits which I would describe as evening or party outfits and not so much outfits which are suited to wear when visiting clients who got regular IT problems. And with that I'm not focussing on the mini skirts and cleavages perse (but its something I do take into consideration), but simply the appearance itself.

    I'm tempted to compare this with working at a department where everyone is casually dressed while I continuously show up wearing suits or similar which simply make me stand out from the rest. If you visit a client like that you'll get the same reactions, especially since they expected a regular IT guy to come over and fix their problems. Not some IT-manager-would-be, that might even give some people the impression that you're dressed like that in order to hide other things.

    Which brings me to another issue; I don't know what kind of problems you and your team solved (you simply mention "regular problems") which is another issue. In more than one cases I had to crawl into places where the cleaners obviously never heard of in order to reach someone's computer, especially when the issues appeared to be hardware related.

    I don't see people easily do that while wearing a suit, but I can also see women getting a huge problem with that when wearing something like a mini skirt.

    Now, I'm not trying to argue that what happened to you isn't true or anything. The main problem with your story is that you wrote it with your own situation fully in mind. Resulting in several descriptions which tell the readers who weren't there absolutely nothing. When you say you wore "Ann Taylor outfits" then that doesn't tell me anything, and worse, perhaps my Google/Bing 'ing even gave me the wrong impression (as I mostly see women with mini skirts and often cleavages there).

    But the thing is; I can easily see your story happening to a man as well.

    It's not fully related, but when I switched jobs (years ago) from a consultancy firm (where wearing a suit was simply second nature (I always wore suits; in the office, at clients, it was an unwritten company policy)) to a regular service desk where everyone dressed casual I also started wearing suits, but after 2 days immediately realized that it might be a better idea to change my attire. Both the issue of standing out, but also from a team perspective; you don't want to give the first impression either that you feel to be better than the rest.

    So I simply can't help wonder if something like that hasn't been going on here as well. Have you ever asked your co-workers or former manager about this? Because then you'd have the complete story, not one which is only based on personal impressions.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: But what does a woman dress like?

      heels and Ann Taylor outfits = pricey and dressy. Appropriate for a sales meeting or dog an pony show, not day to day tech stuff. Also suitable for Devs, but still looks like you are a manger, not a grunt.

      I had a similar experience when I first shifted to IT support work. I've always worn what I consider business casual, button down shirt, pressed pants, but no tie. But my super wore khakis and polos. If we went to a new customer location, they'd look at my clothes and assume I was the lead when the reverse was true. You could always see the internal double take as I looked to my super for confirmation or advice. At some point the owner of the company bought polos for all of us. After that clients looked at body language instead.

    2. BlueGreen

      Re: But what does a woman dress like?

      I'm probably going to be downvoted to hell and maybe I deserve it but this bit, the celebration of her final triumph of 'getting there':

      "I wear pretty shoes, paint my nails with glitter, and change my hair colour as often as Microsoft releases security patches."

      made me die a bit inside, and then a bit more. There's so much about appearance and clothing in the article than about skills and achievements and as someone who wants full equality for women in all areas (and is still waiting for it) this doesn't help. If I was interviewing this lady, what's written here would tip me heavily against her - not the clothing per se but the repeated details of the utterly irrelevant.

      1. Number6

        Re: But what does a woman dress like?

        I think the issue is that the details should be irrelevant but we're not yet at the stage where they are.

        In some ways it's like serving an apprenticeship - you're on the lowest rung so you conform to the requirements of those above you as you establish yourself. Some of this is just common sense because they've got the experience to know it's right, some of it is just prejudice and personal preference that gets imposed, and in an industry like IT, probably much worse for women. Once you've advanced up a few rungs, you get more freedom and power to do what you want and hopefully the useful stuff you were forced to do has stuck, and the petty stuff can be cast aside. That's what I read into the choice of clothing at the end, someone with a bit of a track record and enough confidence to be herself.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    There is nothing better than SIgourney Weaver fixing stuff in 'Alien'...

    > "I traded my heels and Ann Taylor outfits for Gap khakis, button-down shirts and comfy Clarks."


    > "I’m sure many of you reading this are wondering why I didn’t report him to HR"

    That would be reaction of the whiney "but the world owes because I have vagina" feminist claptrap crowd. BAD!

    1. Arctic fox
      Thumb Down

      @Destroy All Monsters. I suggest old chap that you look up the concept.......-

      ........."rhetorical question" because that was what the lady was posing - hmm..?

  6. deadlockvictim

    IT Guys

    In my experience, people in IT (sysadmins, DBAs, devs) dress very minimally and casually. They are proud of their T-shirt collection and spend much money on them. They get their hair cut when it gets too long and buy new runners only when they must.

    When I wear an expensive suit into work, colleagues ask me if I'm going to an interview. Why otherwise would I be wearing a suit? I am attracting attention to myself by changing the uniform, or worse still, wearing the hated uniform of marketing or sales.

    In the IT world it depends how good you are at your chosen field. And by 'good', I mean how knowledgeable you are and how good you are at solving problems. Enthusiasm helps greatly. Back in the late 90's, a colleague came in all excited because he had spent the previous few nights and mornings writing his own web browser. This sort of thing of impresses fellow IT-people.

    You can wear formal business-wear all you like, but if you can impress those with whom you work, you will earn the respect of colleagues. I really don't believe that there is much of a sex-bias amongst geeks.

    And finally, as for selling yourself to your bosses, guys have to do it too and many, many IT-guys are very poor at it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IT Guys

      In my experience, 'people in IT' tend to treat other IT people who dress well with suspicion; this is usually because they have aspirations to move sideways into the businessey stuff, and therefore shouldn't be trusted.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a sad truth of the world sadly...

    But it's there. I've had the occasion to work with women doing IT jobs - at one time we sat around doing the work that needed to be done from 16:00 until 01:00.

    My opinions tend to be either you can do it, you want to learn or you can't do it and aren't willing to learn. If either of the first two you will have my respect irrelevant of gender and if the other two you won't. Simple as that(I don't care about the shinny).

    The other thing I generally like about working with women is that unlike guys they are willing to listen to input and not just dish it out. I've met way to many guys that just try to steamroll their own opinions over everyone elses with no disregard for any arguments why it should be one way or another.

    Anyway glad you have what you want and that you enjoy it.

    1. Scott Broukell

      Re: It's a sad truth of the world sadly...

      I agree 110% with your last statement - the women I have worked with in IT and other areas have, in my view, all been better in their approach to understanding the client's needs and problems and not just imposing a solution without further ado. More than that, sharing information about how they will go about resolving the client's problems - where they feel the client will benefit from using that information, in order to perhaps avoid precipitating future problems etc.

      Which, to my mind at least, would indicate that both men and women have a lot of knowledge and experience to share in IT - let's look past gender and get on with a learning experience together.

      Have to agree with the suitable work-wear statements echoed above though. But as to 'pack' animals, women have just the same propensity you know.

  8. codejunky Silver badge

    Sexist numpty

    I dont expect to win votes on this but seriously, this is an aweful article. Women suffering actual sexism I do take issue with but lets analyse the 'problems' here-

    "He told me that standing out was a distraction and customers would judge me less on my looks and more on my skills if I toned down my appearance. We talked about keeping my hair pulled back and wearing more neutral attire like the rest of the guys on the team. I took his advice: I traded my heels and Ann Taylor outfits for Gap khakis, button-down shirts and comfy Clarks. I was an IT guy now; I was one of the boys."

    So we have a group of people (the guys as she points out) who dress one way. Then we have someone who makes an effort to look entirely different and then complains because this is noticed. Why do you wear make-up? If you dont know then check the adverts, its to be noticed AS A WOMAN. If the guys came in painted up would they be noticed for it? Yeah duh. Why do you wear heels (not comfy and designed to make your womans body shape more prominent) instead of (in your words) comfy shoes? Or your outfits no doubt designed to show off your body traded for comfy clothes? Is it because the rest of the group is wearing them? No, because you made the trade of your flashy clothes to blend into the group you are working in.

    If one of the guys dressed up in whatever showed off his 6 pack and tightly clung to his muscles while pained up and wearing platforms I am sure he would get looks and comments, and probably surprise that he can do IT.

    "I made sure that I didn’t fall behind on what was going on in the industry, but being away for six months (three at the desk, three on leave), you get rusty – and the added pressure of a new baby made it worse. I was behind, and I knew it. I was competing against young men in their early 20s who could work all sorts of crazy hours. All of the “fun” projects were given to my male counterparts, and I was left maintaining the desk with a little bit of technical work to keep me content."

    So you took a desk job for 3 months then 3 months off and complain that you were considered rusty? If one of the guys moved to a desk job and then took 3 months off I am sure he would be assumed a little rusty too. If he came back and found he had personal troubles which got in the way of him competing with the other staff he too would likely find himself being pushed out of the way too.

    "This is where I failed and let the stereotype of IT being a man’s world carry on. I did not tell my manager that this bothered me until it was too late, and I had already started looking for a new job. I was doing what I had been taught to do since grade school: behave and sit quietly."

    So you (YOU!!!!!!!!) didnt speak up. Well done. You act the stereotype of not speaking up. Congrats. Instead you went looking for a new job because people wouldnt just read your mind and do what you telepathically wanted. Really? Go away.

    "As I’ve grown professionally and gained recognition from my superiors, I no longer hide behind khakis and polo shirts. I wear pretty shoes, paint my nails with glitter, and change my hair colour as often as Microsoft releases security patches."

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I went to uni with a guy who changed his hair colour regularly and painted his nails. Guess how seriously he was/is taken? He prefers ripped clothing instead of pretty but the outcome is the same.

    All in all a self made situation is not a real situation. Real sexism is bad. This is complaining because you want to

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sexist numpty

      Hmm. I don't see any complaining in this article.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Sexist numpty

        @ Drewc

        I suggest you re-read. Start with the title- "Women in IT: ‘If you want to be taken seriously, dress like a man’"

        sub heading- "Our troubleshooting engineer on beating the boys at their own game"

        Before the article begins it is men vs women. Woo yeah. Great start.

        Here we go to war (in the trenches)- "So much has been written about the need for more women in IT, but I’ve yet to come across an article that accurately shows what it’s like to be a woman in the trenches like me."

        To gain credit say- "IT is a tough industry regardless of whether you’re a man or woman" to lose it again say- "But it can be even tougher as a woman". Ok so we can see where the line is drawn. Maybe the manager looks down on her! Maybe the company ignores her skill because she is a woman! Maybe she isnt taken seriously for serious reasons! Nope. Its because she dresses to stick out like a sore thumb (previous comments have covered this) and likes to change her hair colour regularly.

        I could go through the article and pick out the rest but the learning curve is fairly shallow. If you dont want to be treated differently STOP TRYING TO BE DIFFERENT. That is the point of the article but written very well for the feminists. Yet it is a lesson that applies to men and women. Its pretty obvious and simple and doesnt need the dividing lines of trenches, more difficult for women nor beating the boys.

        Sorry drew but if you dont see any schoolgirl whining in this article then you need to re-read it.

        1. Alan_Peery

          Re: Sexist numpty & Reg titles

          Do you seriously think the authors of the articles get to pick the title and sub-heading for their articles?

          I think you need to pay more attention to the how the headlines across a day refer indirectly to each other, even then the contents of the articles aren't aligned...

          I don't see any whining. I see someone learning the reality of group dynamics, which is something different.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: Sexist numpty & Reg titles

            @ Alan_Peery

            "I don't see any whining. I see someone learning the reality of group dynamics, which is something different."

            I am surprised but a few people seem to have missed it. Based on the speed of votes up and down it seems during UK working hours more people were blind to the whining than after. I am assuming some form of frog boiling in PC which made some people blind. Interestingly a lot of other people commenting spotted the same problem early on.

            The article itself has a good message- if you dont want to stand out as the odd one out then you need not to make yourself stand out. Plenty other people pointed out this problem with the article yet based on the title, sub title and the many comments she made in the article (how many times does she have to state she is a woman?) seem to suggest the problem is that she is a woman in a "boys’ club".

            I took issue with her seeming to ignore the problems (which she solved when it was pointed out to her) yet attributes it to being a woman. She ignores her efforts to stand out as entirely different to the people she worked with and blames being a woman. That is whining. Blaming what she wants to blame while ignoring the problem she made. In chronological order it looks like this-

            "I am female, and I work in IT."

            "So much has been written about the need for more women in IT"

            "But it can be even tougher as a woman"

            "Oh, you’re a girl. We normally see guys fixing computers."

            "If you want to be taken seriously in IT, you need to dress like a man"

            ""Wow!" I thought to myself, “I’m not being taken seriously already? Did my clients think I was joke?”"

            "I traded my heels and Ann Taylor outfits for Gap khakis, button-down shirts and comfy Clarks. I was an IT guy now; I was one of the boys"

            "I’m sure many of you reading this are wondering why I didn’t report him to HR"

            "The boys’ club prevails"

            "When I returned from maternity leave after my third child, the reality of being a woman in IT hit me"

            "This is where I failed and let the stereotype of IT being a man’s world carry on"

            "especially in a field that is predominantly male"

            "I started to think back on what made me confident before, and the advice about dressing like a man once again popped into mind"

            "I decided that if this behaviour worked for the men, it could work for me"

            "and you’ll find that I’m no longer the token "IT guy" female"

            "I no longer hide behind khakis and polo shirts"

            "I wear pretty shoes, paint my nails with glitter, and change my hair colour as often as Microsoft releases security patches."

            "IT is a boys' club"

            "If you want to work in this field as a woman, you need not only to be able to play with the boys, but also sometimes to beat them at their own games"

            "Once you’ve made it into the club, though, those boys see what kind of “IT magic” can happen when you’ve got Mars and Venus working together."

            An entire article dedicated to missing the point and blaming the boys club for her desire to be the pretty thing with heels, glitter, make up and coloured hair while the rest of her workforce looked nothing like that. This is not a male/female problem yet she insists on pointing it out as one.

            If you were right and she had learned about group dynamics then she would realise she had worthwhile information and understand why. Instead she seems to have misplaced the blame entirely

            1. ratfox

              Re: Sexist numpty & Reg titles

              "An entire article dedicated to missing the point and blaming the boys club for her desire to be the pretty thing with heels, glitter, make up and coloured hair while the rest of her workforce looked nothing like that. This is not a male/female problem yet she insists on pointing it out as one."

              You are either willfully missing the point, or completely out of touch with the world. It is not about her desire to be the pretty thing, it is about her desire to look like a normal woman. Despite what you may think, wearing heels and make up does not denote a desire to stand out, it is just normal. Women dress like that, it is standard. Rather, it is wearing cargo pants which makes a woman stand out.

              1. JEDIDIAH

                Re: Sexist numpty & Reg titles

                You have just defined "normal woman" as "being a pretty thing".

                Congratulations Gloria for helping to perpetuate a pathalogical cultural norm.

      2. Craigness

        Re: Sexist numpty

        She's kind of complaining that it's especially hard for women, but at least she recognises that the solution is to change herself and gain respect like any man has to, instead of demanding everyone else change to suit her needs and feelings.

        1. ratfox

          Re: Sexist numpty

          >> So you (YOU!!!!!!!!) didnt speak up

          Note the multiple exclamation marks — a sure sign of a diseased mind.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sexist numpty


      Reread it, it's an "here's what I did to get ahead" article, not a "the world owes me a living" article. No accusing fingers pointed at anyone but the author and the industry as a whole (and the latter is certainly justified). There's no need to throw your toys out of the pram.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: Sexist numpty

        It's a dog eat dog world out there. If you stop to smell the roses for any reason then you will get grief for it It doesn't matter what your gender is. Women just have the disadvantage of an activity they can't delegate to anyone else.

        A jerk hiring manager will give you grief for a 6 month absence regardless of your gender.

        Being less dedicated to your day job will put you at a disadvatage compared to others that are.

        You make your choices and then you get to live with them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sexist numpty

      Maternity leave is a real problem for technical careers, as a bloke I know how hard it was to keep on top of things with new kids at home - and lets be honest as the man even though I did night feeds, changes, etc... I got less of the stress.

      The brutal truth is that deciding to have children does impact on your career for either sex, but its significantly more pronounced for women. But I do think a key word here is *deciding*

      In this case it sounds as if the employeer actually behaved in quite a reasonable fashion by trying to find a role that would be more family friendly within the team. Certainly if someone's life changes to make it much harder to work unscheduled short notice overtime then they are going to struggle in a role that needs it. Such as its 5pm and suddenly we have an issue which *must* be fixed by 9am and may require 6h work (which most tech roles do require at least occassionally)

      Career and family planning do need to be joined up - making decisions about either in isolation isnt reasonable. I feel for someone who finds that their family circumstances prevent them from doing a job that they want/love (and have some personal experance of this even as a guy) - but commercially companies need people who can do the job both technically and with the required flexability.

      I fully expect some down votes here - but I think anyone deciding to have children should appreciate that it does affect your career (unless you arent going to be involved in their life and have the income to just pay a nannie 24x7)

      As for the discussion about clothes - well yes you need to dress appropriate to the role. At the crawling around under desks end of the profession you need to blend, but I know quite a few female managers/specalists who are entirely desk based who certainly dress in a very stylish but professional fashion. I've also had dress code/hair style advice early in my career - its not just women.

      1. Sixtysix

        Re: Sexist numpty

        <<Maternity leave is a real problem for technical careers, as a bloke I know how hard it was to keep on top of things with new kids at home - and lets be honest as the man even though I did night feeds, changes, etc... I got less of the stress.

        The brutal truth is that deciding to have children does impact on your career for either sex, but its significantly more pronounced for women. But I do think a key word here is *deciding*>>

        I get where you are coming from, but disagree, not specifically with you, with the concept that coming back after long absence (both sexes) means they'll be sidelined: if they were valuable before they took a break, they are a resource to be treasured and nurtured.

        My Service Desk manager is female, our engineers are mostly male - but ONLY JUST. And we've had female engineers off on maternity leave (up to 9 months here once some Annual Leave is tagged on!) and come back: but we had management plans to re-integrate them. None of them took more than a couple of weeks to get back to full speed: but IS management worked at it, prepared in advance, and monitored progress.

        The approach of managers is suspect throughout IT: it's rightly observed that the noisy but potentially less brilliant people get recognised and rewarded - but this only happens where the manager is not sufficiently aware and involved to spot the phony.

        Guys and Gals need a slightly different management approach: if you put a lady under a proper "lad" the results won't be pretty - I think the article makes it clear her original manager was at least aware of the differences required (he talked to her about it!), but I'd be really interested to know if it was the same manager who let her return to work without a plan to maximise the firms sunk investment by establishing what she expected, and getting her back to speed as quickly as possible... But then as she says, she didn't push - and without a manager who notices the lack of engagement and asks the right questions, looking for a new job is almost inevitable.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm going to get slack for this, I'm sure, but when reading the other comments I can't help myself..

      "All in all a self made situation is not a real situation. Real sexism is bad. This is complaining because you want to".

      I'd agree with you at first impression too. But if there's one thing which dating and spending quality time with my gf has taught me is that women, in general (yes, I am generalizing), often tend to be.. how do I put this; influenced by their emotions. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, I'm also not trying to stereotype here.

      But I also can't help mentioning that this is exactly what went through my mind. I've seen this before. And if you don't believe me; read up my own previous comment where I also clearly mentioned "you're writing this from your own perspective" (or something close enough).

      The author isn't bitchy IMO, she's simply writing it up from her point of view. And although I don't agree perse I can understand that when looking back (in perspective of her current situation) she might not agree with the whole ordeal.That's what you're reading here I think.

      Thing is; you're talking sexism but when reading her story that never popped into my mind to be honest. Could be because of a general feminine conspiracy and they already managed to get to me with their, well, let's keep it civil ;) (also because I have a hunch someone I know could be reading this).

      But I also think that sex difference is at the bottom here. Which is why I went for "have you ever spoken to those guys again" in my comment up there.

      Ok: you're an unmarried manager. You have a female employee in your team and she's just about the first woman you came across in your field of work. AND you noticed she stands out from the crowd.

      How exactly would YOU tell her to dress differently (while you also honestly mean the stuff you say; you could also have asked her to come around in a bikini which would really score high (in the wrong way) but you really meant for her to succeed)?

      I can well imagine that the manager had in mind that 'casual' could be different for men and women. So to make sure to get his point across he started mentioning that which he knew best; men's wear. Yet I have to agree that I also have a hard time believing that the stuff would go as far as her hair style.

      Alas; my 2 cents on the matter.

  9. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    I will support the views about inappropriate clothing, but mainly on the practical side.

    If I had my way, I would ban anything approaching high heals in a machine room. This would include built-up boots, such as cowboy boots. The reason? Well suspended floors are never completely even, and if you put a heel over the edge of a raised or removed tile, accidents will follow (I believe you are more likely to maintain your balance with 'normal' shoes). Similarly, I would not want sandals or strappy shoes worn anywhere heavy equipment is being moved.

    I also wonder how someone in a skirt would react to crawling under or around restricted spaces while trying to maintain their dignity, and if they did not care about their dignity, how much of a distraction that would be to their colleagues.

    The comparison with suits that ShelLuser quotes is not relevant, because it is perfectly possible to take a jacket and tie off, roll up your sleeves, and be no different from a mobility basis than someone wearing cargo pants and a tee shirt. Indeed, IBM hardware engineers used to have to wear suits, it's what was expected. It's not possible to do this if you are wearing a dress.

    In terms of appearance, I would say that standing out is not always a bad thing (I wear collared shirts and a tie even though those around me are much more casual). But do it for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll go anonymous for this one....

    Less than 25%? I'll say. My experience is that women engineers make up less than 10%. I dont know where the 1 in 4 are women engineering workplaces are, but I have never seen one or heard talk of one.

    Dress like a man? I dunno. In my experience the few women engineers we have are fawned on, with everyone from the grunts to the managers vying for their attention. This gives them a freedom to speak at times and in manners few guys could. If you are lucky enough to be both not-ugly and intelligent, the sky is probably the limit within any organisation - unlike the multitude of guys, who have to compete on intelligence alone, and against the natural male competitive edge, which instinctively excludes women.

    If you dont beleive me, try an exercise like hiking up a mountain with a backpack in the company of men - halfway up complain your backpack is heavy - the men will trip over themselves to help you; many may even have anticipated helping you - however no help will be offered to any man unless he explicity asks for it - and then it will be given reluctantly, conditionally, and in exchange for unspoken alpha kudos he can never regain. This is a powerful effect at your disposal - men want to work with you, both for the pleasure of your company and for the in-group status elevation that comes with it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The backpack thing works IF as you say the woman is not-ugly, or more to the point is reasonably attractive. For any woman who isn't attractive (plain, older, overweight - all the things men can get away with) then you don't get men tripping over themselves to help, you get men complaining about what wusses women are, or how they shouldn't do "male" passtimes like hiking up mountains.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When there are 9 guys to every 1 gal you will find that all it takes is for the gal not to be ugly or unlikeable. Plain, older or overweight, its still a female, and a rarity, and who she pays attention to still influences the male pack....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Less than 25%? I'll say. My experience is that women engineers make up less than 10%. I dont know where the 1 in 4 are women engineering workplaces are, but I have never seen one or heard talk of one."

      While the IT support department (which was part of) was all male, the actual engineers at the telecoms company where about 25% female. 50% if you looked at the under 40's. They tried to introduce a dress code (to research engineers! Sometimes they're just lucky to be dressed). Entire department started turning up in ball gowns, tutus etc. Seeing three tall, portly 50ish male engineers drinking their coffee managed to change the CEO's mind...

      I would usually wear a suit (3 piece, no tie) 2-3 days a week, jeans and a hoody the other days. When I've worked for consulting firms I'd have a suit or two at the office. If I've got to get my nice outfit messy to sort out something urgent, then I will. The dry cleaning bill is going to be paid for by the customer one way or another.

      Alas, as far as the rest goes, perception is everything. What have you done for us recently. See the always funny Dominic's advice for that. A badly done fix done right now, that needs re-fixing each day, will be felt to be "more useful" than a well designed fix that takes a week. Hack it, don't fix it.

      I maintain MS remains "dominant" because the MS techs know damn well that improved efficiencies is coming out of their paycheck.

  11. Hud Dunlap
    Thumb Up


    You are right.

    Every place you work has a uniform. It might not be official but it is still a uniform. You weren't wearing the uniform. I have been in the semiconductor industry for thirty five years. How you dress matters. And you don't dress well. The phrase " Hiding behind a tie" was a common comment. People who dressed well were not respected. They dressed well to hide the fact that they couldn't do the job.

    I have worked with research managers who wore t-shirts and torn jeans. With his Phd, patents and papers published he could dress any damn well he pleased and he wanted everyone to know it.

  12. Shasta McNasty


    I wish I could tell you his advice was all wrong, but I can’t. Very soon after I stopped wearing makeup and started dressing more like man, I noticed a change in people’s interactions with me.


    I no longer hide behind khakis and polo shirts. I wear pretty shoes, paint my nails with glitter, and change my hair colour as often as Microsoft releases security patches.

    So what are you saying? Is your dress code important or not? Or is it just the fact that once you prove your skills, no-one gives a chuff what you wear or what reproductive organs you have?

  13. ukgnome

    Shows a lack of logic

    Women, and I know the rest of you might not like this are .....logical creatures.

    They follow rules a lot better than us men folk, this make them a lot better with certain tasks. However, they are not as inventive. This sounds cruel, but it is by no means an insult. For instance, get two coders a male and a female.....guess which one you can actually read if they leave. And don't even get me started on flow charts detailing the who what when were why.

    I have stated on these forums many time, the IT industry would be a lot better off with more women.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shows a lack of logic

      "Women, and I know the rest of you might not like this are .....logical creatures.

      They follow rules a lot better than us men folk, this make them a lot better with certain tasks."

      WOW, STEREO TYPED! Utter bollox.

      1. ukgnome

        Re: Shows a lack of logic

        Indeed, but some stereotypes are true - just ask my wife.

        You obviously have never worked with female techies.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Shows a lack of logic

          Apart from thats not true... If you look at the cognative and behavioral research you will find men are normally better logical through (maths, science etc) and women are normally emotional tasks (the arts). This is not an absolute rule for every person. People differ and a single woman may be better than a single man, but as a general rule it is true backed up by hard science. It should never be used to judge the ability's of a single person because it dose not tell you anything about that persons skills, but in general it is true and plenty of work backs it up.

    2. Ambivalous Crowboard
      Thumb Down

      Re: "Women are local creatures"

      You have clearly never met my wife

    3. Franchesca

      Re: Shows a lack of logic

      In my (10 years) experience working with male programmers, I find that the ones that consider themselves more "inventive" seem to use this as an excuse for being sloppy, constantly making mistakes that generate way more work for the rest of us. They seem to think that their overly complex code is somehow more creative.

      A truly inventive / creative programmer (of either sex) will, like your hypothetical female, come up with solutions that are simple, elegant, and require minimal maintenance.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or possibly

    You got attention when you first started in IT because you were a young women in an office of one-handed internet surfers.

    Spin forward 10 years and three kids later and nobody is looking anymore so they haven't noticed your outfit.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    it's not just women

    I'm a 41 year old man, but I was also told by my manager to lose the painted nails, high heels and skirts and to 'dress like a man' if I wanted to be taken seriously.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh joy

    Here come the men complaining that a woman's experience didn't happen or is "obviously" explained by something else.

    1. Craigness

      Re: Oh joy

      Because men never have issues and everything that happens to all women is done to them by men for the benefit of men?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh joy

        Your response is a non sequitor.

  17. Gil Grissum

    Maybe this sort of thing is common place in the EU, but having worked for numerous companies where either the CEO is a woman or the CIO is a woman, half the tech support staff are women and some of them where pretty shoes, dresses, paint their nails, wear makeup, and change their hair color. Yes, IT is a "boys club" persay but these days, there are plenty of ladies prospering there, at least for the company I work for.

  18. Don Jefe

    Tech Attire

    The author hit on the key point but blew by it on the way to Anne Taylor. By the time her career started to be more like she wanted she had paid her dues professionally, had begun to mature as a mother, and was starting reap the benefits of experience

    Nobody likes to hear that it takes years to even begin to learn how to do something well. You may have the technical aspects of something nailed by the time your 20 and by the time your 40 you'll really be able to put all your accumulated knowledge and experience to work for you. There's more to every job than following the manual or best practices.

    Nobody can teach you how to really do any job. Interacting with colleagues, "professional finish details", how to dress, panache, nifty tricks, personal strengths, and weaknesses, etc... Those are all just as important as any requisite skillset. You gotta pay your dues. College grads think they've paid by getting through school, they're very, very wrong. Young professionals think eight years on the job makes them executive material, they too are wrong.

    Wear task appropriate clothes, bust your ass, do the best work you can and keep doing it, over and over and over. It will never end, get used to it. One in 20 million people are prodigies, one in 5,000 has nepotism on their side, and excepting fringe cases, it is on you to get those preferential projects, raises and promotions.

  19. Craigness

    I've taken a few sabbaticals in my career and each time I returned to the world of work it's been assumed that my skills had declined. I always moved jobs after each break so I've never had to see if an employer would take me back on the same terms and not have the career break work as an obstacle to promotion. If they had promoted someone who'd been adding value to the company, keeping her skills up to date and enhancing relationships with clients all the time I'd been slacking on the beach, I'd have no complaints. If I had to leave early for a football match when the rest of the team was doing essential upgrade work, I'd expect to be first out the door when the company restructured.

    There's an adage that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. In sales this might be appropriate, where you go from bullshitting customers about the benefits of the XF340 to bullshitting the manufacturer of the XF340 about how professional your team is. Cold-calling can be done in a jumper but a jacket doesn't look out of place; wearing a jumper perhaps shows you're happy where you are. But in IT when your job is to crawl behind desks and plug cables in, people will treat you with suspicion if you dress like a board member who wouldn't know a CAT5 from a mouse.

  20. Anonymous IV

    Come back, Verity Stob, all is forgiven...

    "I’ve yet to come across an article that accurately shows what it’s like to be a woman in the trenches like me"

    Verity has worked in the trenches of programming and systems analysis for many years - is that no good?

  21. Dr. Mouse

    I would say that your bosses advice was perfectly sound, and not something which should have been reported to HR. I do not believe it was sexist (although the wording may have been construed as such), he was just advising you to fit in.

    It is no different, in my view, to advice given about how to dress for an interview. You dress smart, and in a way which will not cause anyone to see you in a negative light. This is easy for blokes: You go in a suit and tie, whether you are applying for a management post or a warehouse job. For women, there are more choices, but you go in work-smart clothing, not exposing yourself, not tarted up to the nines...

    When it comes to work, as others have said, try to fit in. If everyone else is wearing suits, you wear suits. If everyone else is wearing shabby jeans, ditto. You don't want to stand out until you have established yourself, at which point you need to be sure you stand out in a positive way.

    So, although I will not deny that things are more difficult for women in a technical profession, the advice about dress is something everyone needs to take on board.

    As for the "acting like a bloke" bit, well, that'll cause me some issues at some point. I'm a quiet bloke, and I hate to sing my own praises or push my way forward. Luckily I have never had to, and my bosses have always been able to see my good work without me shouting it.

  22. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Honking your horn

    > If you don’t toot your own horn, who is going to do it for you

    And there we have it! The secret to success: not just in IT, but in any career in any country, for anyone of any gender.

    If you want a pay rise, you have to ask for it. If you want a promotion you need to go out and GET IT. Sitting at your desk waiting for muggin's turn to finally favour you gets you nowhere. However, grabbing the bull by the balls is a trait that is more often seen in a certain type of (usually, but not exclusively) man - generally the ones who make a lot of noise, attract (management) attention, are a pain on the arse around the office and let people know (loudly and often) about their successes. If you think that demurely saying "yes, maybe I would be willing to take on a little more responsibility" or "I do think I've grown into the job" at your annual appraisal is all it takes, think again - everyone. It may not appear "seemly" or "feminine" but - if you don't ask, you don't get.

    You need to take the initiative (and not as an ex-subordinate did when I gave him his review: [Me] "You don't use your initiative" [Him] "you never asked me to") and be one step ahead. Tell you boss that you think "X" is going to be an opportunity and you'd like to try making it work - don't wait for the honour to be bestowed on someone else.

    I have to say that this seems to me, in large lart at least, to explain why women so often get paid less than men and/or don't rise so fast and so high. Simply because they don't ask for pay rises or promotions; they take what is offered. Similarly when applying for a new job, the tendency is to not rock the boat and accept the salary being offered, rather than haggling for an extra grand or two.

    So get that horn and start honkin'

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The pragmatic approach ...

    I'm afraid I tend to agree with your first manager. The most valuable tekkies are true geeks and spend their free time learning and/or becoming better at what they do. If you have painted nails and high heels, it means you've chosen to paint your nails and go shopping instead of sitting behind a screen. Now whereas the lives of many tekkies may be perceived as being "a bit sad", it's also true that your experience is proportional the amount of time you sit behind a screen! Personally when hiring I would always lean towards jeans and T-shirt, heels would not impress me!

  24. CheesyTheClown

    Sad to hear about your confidence problems

    It seems strange that you wouldn't take a great deal more pride in being a female who "beats the odds" as it seems. My wife spent the past 15 years at service desk at a major national newspaper here in Norway and how she dressed never came into question. She was confident in what she did and she solved problems and people treated her as well (or as poorly) as they treated her male peers.

    You are obviously in a really bad place if your gender plays a role in your career. This should only be an issue where being able to urinate standing or giving birth is an issue. A competent person is a competent person and it has nothing to do with gender. When I was in my early 20's, I dressed in 3 piece suits to work in order to convince people to take me seriously at work. That was really sad. Now, I wear jeans and a t-shirt to work every day. My words and actions speak for me. I could easily (as a man) show up for work dressed as a woman and people would depend on me precisely as they do now. In fact, if anything, it would make people see me as being even more confident with my ability to accomplish tasks.

    People who think the way they dress matters at work are precisely the people who aren't that good at what they do. If you're a problem solver, you're value is based on your ability to solve problems. If you blow sunshine up your bosses ass, gender doesn't matter, you'll get those raises and gain their misguided respect. I hate that I spent years having to read about sports to convince idiots who rate your value based on your tie that I'm of any value.

    I now, at age of 38 years old signed a contract with an IT firm which gave me 5% of the company, salary plus bonuses and the money I need to do my work.... without kissing ass or talking sports. It came from years of 18 hour work days, constant studying, huge numbers of certifications and more. My work paid off. Gender had absolutely nothing to do with it. My knowledge, connections, skills and friendliness was all that mattered.

    Want to know something scary? If you showed up for an IT related job dressed like a man, I'd see you as lacking confidence in yourself. I'd see you as a person who puts more value on appearance than on productivity.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: A competent person is a competent person and it has nothing to do with gender

      Quite true.

      Unfortunately, many, many people operate on impressions and preconcieved notions. I do as well, up to a point.

      Let me give you a personal example :

      One day, I had to change my running shoes. I thus took my noon lunch break to do so, and found my way into a sports shop. I was mosing around the aisles without a clue, and a clerk noticed me and intercepted me. He was young, had a mohawk, a wifebeater shirt, army leggings and some sort of black boots, with the complementary assortment of metal sticking out here and there in the most improbably places. Not the kind of individual I generally entertain a conversation with.

      I expected to be conned into buying some expensive pair after a round of marketing platitudes. Boy was I ever wrong. He asked me pertinent questions about the type of activity I was planning, the type of terrain I was going to be on, the frequency of my activities and my weight. He asked me to walk in front of him, explaining that the way I walked would condition what type of soles the shoes needed. When we were through, he pointed me to two different models, explaining to me why he believed that those were the best choices possible in my situation.

      In short, he was competent, polite and professional, a very far cry from what I was expecting. I left with a good pair of shoes (for a price, true) and a humbling recall that the clothes do not make the man. Before leaving, I made a point to thank him for his help.

      So I try very hard to not judge people by their outward appearance - up to a limit (if you stink, are unwashed and unpleasant, I don't care if you're the best in your field - you can go on living in your mom's basement).

      On the other hand, as a self-employed consultant to banks and other financial institutions, I wear a suit. If you come to me for an interview, I will expect you to know the field and dress appropriately. If you don't, I'm sorry but you will not be working in my market with me.

    2. Craigness

      Re: Sad to hear about your confidence problems

      Cheesy, like you she started her career dressing to impress but it didn't impress. Like you she got skilled up and found her skills appreciated, and was able to dress how she wanted and still be appreciated. But for her it's a "gender issue".

  25. Simon B

    An enjoyable and well written article, and an interesting read :) Well done on breaking the views of others and being yourself! :)

  26. Atonnis

    Times have changed...

    I remember a decade ago when I was in a 2nd line support role at a major bank. There were 25 of us in the department. only two of which were women.

    One dressed practically, she took on any job, worked hard, put in the time to actually learn how things worked, and steadily moved up in rank and respect. She'd never been viewed as anything other than a colleague.

    The other dressed up to the nines...heels, tight suit, long blonde hair always down her back, makeup so thick you could've peeled it off in one action and had a mask. She worked hard at schmoozing up to management, and telling everyone how great she was...yet she never crawled under a desk, or carried anything herself. She used every wile she had to get others to do her work for her, and never kept up with any of the latest developments.

    If others have experienced the same thing, then nowadays they're going to be viewing women who dress up in skirts and heels with skepticism...the same way I'd view a man in a custom tailored Armani suit... I just wouldn't believe they are dressing for the role (of course, this assumes a 'standard' get-under-desks, squeeze-round-the-back-of-the-comms-rack sort of role) and that someone else is about to do the real work.

    I always swore that once I reached a management position, I wouldn't make a distinction between the sexes, and now I absolutely am confident that I don't. I do make a distinction for how people dress-for-the-job, behave, work and learn.

    1. Cari

      Re: Times have changed...

      Did the other woman (heels & make-up, suck up to management) move up the ranks at all, and if so at what rate compared to practically dress woman?

      1. Atonnis
        Thumb Up

        Re: Times have changed...

        She moved sideways into a project and since no-one actually respected her or valued her presence they all prioritised her requests to the bottom of the pile. Eventually realised that she had nowhere to go and no support and left.

        The other one moved up to helpdesk manager by the time I left the company. She was 26 at the time, and knew her stuff.

        In the end, it came down to the fact that the one who succeeded did so because she didn't behave in the stereotypical archetype of a girl. In the same way, the most laddish stereotypical archetype-of-a-boy workers were also not respected and didn't do so well. It was those who focused on the task, on the job, who succeeded.

  27. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    I want to say something sexist, but I think it's all been said already.

  28. Mark Allread

    This makes perfect sense

    I work with some women who turn up every day looking like they're going out on a night out. Loads of make-up etc.. There's simply no reason for anyone to turn up to work with make-up on. Be neat, be clean, but as soon as you start applying transient stuff designed to make you appear more attractive (including certain attire), then you'll be judged in that way. It would the same for blokes too, but blokes very rarely do indulge in this. Simply put, if you turn up for work looking like you want to be judged on your appearance, you'll be judged on your appearance - to the detriment of being judged any other way.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Modes of dress

    If you dress somewhat conservatively, you will probably get recognition faster than if you dress like tart.

    A woman wearing a low cut shirt to show off cleavage and yoga-tights instead of pants, then you may find that hetero males are not listening because they are staring at your boobs or your ass.

    I know it makes us jerks, but its often the reality.

    I once worked with a young woman who always dressed in revealing clothes and most people said she was a hot moron; when I interacted with her, I discovered that she was actually smarter than several of the people who called her a moron. The contrast was so striking that I still remember 10 years later.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a bunch of whiners.

    There is way too much sense of "entitlement" going on. If you don't like your current situation either invest some time and effort in personal & professional development or just become a stepping stone for those who are proactive about their lives and career direction.

    I was tired of being the token blond bird in the team photo, especially as I'm a brunette. No amount of work effort gained any recognition or hint of promotion. Honestly, I'd have settled for just a little less crap.

    You can stick Investors in People, I invested in me and 5 years I own an IT security consultancy not far from liberty enlightening the world.

    It's your move gals & guys

  31. MissingSecurity

    The saddest part to this article is the responses trying to claim equality in the work place. I love IT, but we have seriously got some social problems with women in the work place which borders on misogyny. If dresses and heels are your trigger for judging a womens talent in IT than you're an idiot.

  32. candyman76

    I can relate

    I'm a guy and been in IT support for 17+ years and can relate to this story. I started out with the pony tail past my shoulders when I was pretty green. I didn't realize until after cutting it off and dressing a little nicer, I had managers and users interacting with me more easily. Yes, I realize having her male boss say something seems inappropriate but at the same time who else would have given her advice? Sounds like she didn't have a lot of female peers that would have been telling her to change her appearance. I wish a man or woman had told me sooner to change up the looks to get ahead a little easier.

    Oh, and in all of the years I have been in IT, the best techs I have worked with were women. I have always gotten along better with women in IT than a lot of male techs that had big chips on their shoulders. My female bosses were always easier to work for as well. Keep up the good work out there.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not unique to IT

    I'd say much of what you write applies to other fields than just IT.

    If you dress and behave like a pretty doll, you'll be treated like one. That's not sexist, that's just the way things work and loads of women use that to their advantage, which is in fact sexist behavior. Sometimes that's useful and it can get you great gigs in marketing, sales, or serving (male) executives as a secretary. When you are trying to convince people you are a skilled professional the last thing you want is have people stare at your legs, ass, and cleavage and be distracted/intimidated/impressed/aroused/etc. by what is on offer. Highly distracting and the last thing you should be emphasizing when you are trying to get people to focus on your other qualities.

    So, be grateful that your boss had the balls (apologies for the massive pun) to tell it the way it is instead of just enjoying the view.

  34. John H Woods Silver badge

    I always try to make sure ...

    ... that my clients know that I can "do stuff" before I risk turning up to the office on rollerblades. I still wear a suit - haven't had too many tumbles with sartorial consequences - but I'm not a hugely ambitious skater.

  35. Herby

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Yes, those who have the "extra X chromosome" have problems in LOTS of places. I take the example of my mom. In her youth, she went to a VERY prestigious business school in a place that was to become Silicon Valley. This was before WW2, and females were very odd in this line of classes/work. She told me that there were only 4 females in the class (over 100), and at times they went of field trips. Of course she "dressed the part" and was considered "one of the guys". One particular field trip she went on she noted that a machine had broken down, and was in need of repair "right now". At that point she increased her vocabulary of words quite a bit as she heard lots of $%^&#@ words.

    Yes, things have improved since then, but in lots of places some people (there are lots) are considered "second class" due to a physical characteristic (take your pick). It is unfortunate, but it happens. The good thing is that these incidents are decreasing with time. We can only hope that things will improve.

    Yes, mom is still with us, and will be 95 next month.

  36. Thorfkin

    I disagree with your assertion that IT is a "men's club". Whether your male or female, other people's perception of your ability as a professional is designated entirely by your presentation of self.

    I agree that you won't be taken seriously wearing a dress any more than a guy would be taken seriously wearing shorts and sandals. If you want to be taken seriously, get yourself a decent business suit (male or female). Believe it or not, men run into this same problem. How you present yourself matters.

    You're right about the attitude though. From an employer's perspective, given an abundance of similarly qualified applicants, they will Always hire the one who stands out the most with an empowered attitude. That same attitude continues to affect your "brand" even after your hired. In this business you HAVE to stand up for yourself. You MUST come across like you personally own the world if you want to get noticed. I personally think that's why most women find it difficult to break into an IT career. Statistically men tend to be more aggressive than women and so they tend to get noticed more. I don't know if this is a result of something social, genetic, or upbringing, but I do know that presentation is everything in any self-driven career.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    What if male IT workers dress in drag instead??

    Paris--because I don't think she'd have anything to fear.....

  38. Dan Harris

    Never ever had a female applicant for a job at my firm (I'm the MD), and often bemoan the fact as I suspect our team would be substantially improved by a great female team player, 90% of our work is customer service, not IT, and anyone who is willing to put their mind to it can do an excellent job.

    1. Sandra Greer

      Never had a female applicant?

      You might want to check the way you recruit or indicate willingness to hire. Also, ask your staff if they know any females who might be interested. Your channel may be restricted!

    2. AmeliaAlmquist

      Out of interest are you based in the UK?

      I was pleased to learn you apparently have to dress like a man. My off-duty outfits tend to be a cross between Daria, Kurt Cobain and Liz Lemon so I'd fit right in ;-)

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It depends how you measure success...

    ... I calculate it by the ratio of earnings to effort - that's why I got into IT in the first place, it's pretty much money for old rope when you compare it to proper jobs.

    This holds true even more if you're a reasonably attractive female and willing to use that fact to your advantage. There will always be a love-struck technically competent colleague who will do half your job for you in return for a "knowing smile" in order to fuel his lonely fantasies. There will always be a smitten boss that will overlook your mistakes / fecklessness and pass you over in rounds of redundancy on the off-chance that he might get lucky one year at the Christmas party.

    I'm a man, but I've seen females being very successful in IT on the basis outlined above. I'm not bitter, good luck to them, I'm just jealous that I can't get away with doing as little work as they do...

  40. Stephen Channell

    If you want to be taken seriously... be yourself, but know you colleagues

    “Dress like a man” is a cleaver soundbite to distract from the real issue of sex in the workplace, which is not an especially IT issue. Sure taking sex of the table (by dressing like a man), focuses minds on technical aptitude, but begs the question “if a man’s judgment is impaired by a pair of beautiful, inviting, breasts; is he best placed to buy a product, if the salesperson happens to have the said ‘qualities’”. Aside from pure practicality (clarks wins over prada in any scenario with ventilation tiles) dress is more about fitting in with the team, than the gender issue (green & white stripes in a 3rd division Glasgow Rangers group is more a no-no than fish-nets).

    Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family; if your firm doesn’t like your choices; choose a different one.

  41. itzman

    It works for men, too

    It was the last coding contract I ever worked on, the worst of all possible worlds, 60 contractors on a project that two of us could have done, months behind schedule because of poor design indifferent management and starting from the wrong place. I used to go in in jeans and a T-shirt, with shoulder length hair.

    I went into the local bank to cash a cheque. "Do you have any ID?" snarled the chavette behind the glass. "ID?, whatever for? that's my name, that's my signature, that's my account and that's my cheque guarantee card". Nevertheless without seeing a driving license, she wouldn't budge.

    The next week I put on a dull grey suit. Yes, I had suits as well as jeans. I'm not religious about clothes. And went to the same bank, with the same chavette behind the glass. She cashed my cheque without a murmur, with no ID and called me 'sir'.

    It is the stupidity of feminism that thinks that judging by appearance is somehow something that only happens to women.

    It was the female contract agency employee who told me on my first job 'yes, wear a suit, you will get more respect'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It works for men, too

      > And went to the same bank, with the same chavette behind the glass. She cashed my cheque without a murmur, with no ID and called me 'sir'.

      Perhaps the chavette had more intelligence than you give her credit for. Perhaps she remembered your face from your previous visit despite the change in appearance.

      I have my hair close cropped, I'm usually unshaven and wear cheap jeans, t-shirts and old trainers. I look like I don't have two pennies to rub together. I have never had anybody in any bank treat me with anything other than respect let alone have any of them "snarl" at me.

  42. J__M__M

    If that's you in the picture I think you dress very nicely, stick with it.

  43. William Roberts

    I recall a consulting assignment where our seven person team showed up the first day in full business attire (per SOP) and all of the customer team showed up in blue jeans and sports shirts. At the end of the day, the team lead got us altogether and said "Tomorrow we all show up dressed like the customer." A fast trip to the mall to buy a pair of jeans and a couple of shirrts and the next day when we walked in, the atmosphere dramatically changed. What could have been a rough visit became smooth and friendly. Fitting in is the first rule.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love being a woman in IT

    I come from a family of IT techs so I had exposure to real IT (not th s**t they call IT at school) and was playing with bits of kit at a young age with my brothers.

    No one blinks an eye that I'm a female grunt where Iwork. Theyre usually just pleased to see someone who can help them. I am treated as a bit of a freak at training days for Cisco, VMware and f5 etc. i was once asked where the coffee was before the trainer realised i wasnt hotel staff.

    Trainers, short sleeve shirts and jeans are order of the day (and on call hours) but I can rock pink socks. Longevity in IT is based on your skills, male or female.

    Now I'm a mum with my kids at uni studying to be the next generation, a whole circle of life Lion King thing!

  45. thepowda

    It's dressing like an IT PERSON...

    I really think the idea is less about dressing like an IT GUY and more like dressing like an IT person, here's why.

    I'm a freelance IT consultant / systems manager / network admin (what are we calling ourselves these days?) and when I started out - regardless of my portfolio of clients and success stories - I was subject to the same thing.

    The difference is... I wore tailored jeans, fitted shirts and was sociable. I wasn't taken seriously because I wasn't wearing khakis, a polo shirt and sporting a neck beard.

    Nearly every new client that I would meet with when I was starting out just HAD to mention in our introductory meeting that "you certainly don't look like an IT guy" which then led to me having to PROVE to them how much of a computer geek I could be so they could feel comfortable with someone who - while acting the part - didn't look enough like it.

    I've heard the "it's a man's world" thing enough times and I really do get it... But I've had the fortune of meeting some mean IT women who can handle their own and I've found that success in the IT industry is far less about your gender and more about your attitude.

    1. Cari

      Re: It's dressing like an IT PERSON...

      Your experiences would suggest perhaps we need a change in perception of IT people. I mean, how many of us in the field honestly want to have to fit the (often negative) stereotype of IT Guy in order for customers to believe we actually know what we're on about?

      1. AmeliaAlmquist

        Re: It's dressing like an IT PERSON...

        To be fair, it's a negative perception based on reality for some people. My firm's IT is outsourced and most of the staff are rude, show up dressed in a way that would lead to any of us office staff being put on a disclipinary and at best the help you get is slow and partial. We all have to deal with people who don't understand our work but only the IT staff get to be openly rude. I don't get to ask a client why he's bothering me with this crap as I once heard IT saying to a colleague.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Personally speaking, I wouldn't see any reason why a woman in IT would need actively to avoid a feminine appearance. As a first impression to me it would imply a weakness of personality. (Unless of course they have the hairstyle which suggests they wouldn't do it outside of work either). Negative impressions come from looking unprofessional: well-put-together is quite different from tarted up.

  47. chris lively

    Dress in any job is crucial. If you want to be one of the team then you need to dress like it. If you want your bosses job, dress better than him/her and act like it. If you want people to focus on how you look, dress in a way that accentuates it. Doesn't matter what gender you are.

    I've had colleagues who had a problem covering their chest or choose to wear short skirts. At no time were they taken seriously. Doesn't matter if the dress code is "casual" or "business casual" or to the nines.

    Further IT is well know for our rebels. Some are awesome, some just think they are. Dress like your colleagues and be a super hero. Then make sure people know it. You'll get noticed in the right way. Dress like you aren't part of the team, and just do the 9 to 5, then you'll be ignored.

  48. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Non-verbal communication

    Dress is a form of communication, just as much as facial expression, body stance etc. And far more blatant too. You control how you dress.

    If you dress like a middle-manager, but are a hands-on techie, you are telling the people around you that you want to see yourself as management: Not one of the workers.

    Which may get you on the fast track managers route. But is not going to impress anyone who actually wants some tech work done.

    And wearing glam heels, designer clothes etc. isn't giving the message that you see yourself as one of the technicians. In other words, It's less about dressing like a technician's stereotype, more about not dressing as if you don't want to be seen as a technician.

    And it's the same in most jobs. There are young teachers who act and dress from day one like they are preparing for headship.

    And I'm sure the same goes for every "Frontline" occupation.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    took the time to read all the comments after reading the article, and I have to say I'm disappointed with many reactions.

    women should not have to alter their appearance to be more male to be accepted in the workplace or anywhere else for that matter. it is denying who you are just to be allowed to be recognized as a member of society, which I believe is similar to what racism and gender bias is about in a nutshell. denial, lack of perception.

    there were no women present during my school career and there are still none in my line of IT work 30 years later. us men have nothing to compare with on the workfloor, everybody does the same old goose step. it is clear many still do not understand why. I actually feel less human just thinking about that barren place we call society.


      Feminazi nonsense

      > women should not have to alter their appearance to be more male to be accepted in the workplace

      That's life. Get used to it.

      I "dress down" at my current job. I do this because everyone at the job does this. I have some nice tailored pants that fit me better because I am a tall guy. However, I don't wear them because they would stick out.

      Everyone that starts out here comes to work on the first day too well dressed.

      Everyone remedies that by the next day.

      You adapt to the social environment. "Girls" that are supposed to have better social skills should have no problem with that.

  50. miket82

    Unrecognised talents

    I once asked a woman I was interviewing what her skills were.

    She replied 'none, for the last 22 years I've been bringing up our 4 children'

    I replied 'so you don't consider that being an expert in HR, financial management, social work, catering, health and safety, time management, transportation logistics and well developed negotiating skills to name just a few are important?'

    I doubt the current crop of HR based assessment centres and their psychological tick boxes would have picked her skills up.

    She got the job and went on to become very successful.

    My point. Forget the past, look at the future and the potential. Gender is only one aspect to consider and is no less or more important than any other attribute.

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