Dressing for an inclusive culture at work
Today I’ve commuted for a total of five hours carrying two extra pairs of shoes. Heels for my FTSE 100 client, trainers for my sportswear client, and Dr Martens for the walk to and from the train station. My last hook-up of the day was with a consultant friend for a glass of wine. By this time I just wanted to take my shoes off.
She began to tell me about the female CEO of the company where she is an interim. This woman has been at the helm for several years and built a leadership team with a 50/50 gender balance. Wow, I said. What’s the culture like?
Positive, collaborative, flexible, came the answer. The leadership are a strong team, underpinned by the confidence of everyone being there on merit, she said. She has progressed female talent from within the company. Everyone feels valued and like they can express themselves.
I marvelled once again. And what is the CEO like, I said. What’s her leadership style?
She is known for turning up at meetings wearing the opposite of what you’d expect, my friend says. So biker jacket and boots for a business meeting; sharply-cut suit for an away-day. To read this one way, she is unsettling the norm of what’s expected from a woman at work. To read it another, she’s saying what I’m wearing is irrelevant, it’s what I have to say and contribute that’s important.
Any of these statements would go a long way to creating a corporate culture which is inclusive of difference, with a leader who only alters her style (figuratively as well as literally) when she decides to.
One further interpretation might be this: ‘I am a leader with many styles: masculine, feminine and everything in-between. I am showing you that a person can reach the very top of this organisation by being themselves. And that being yourself at work enables you to be the best version of yourself that you can, in any given situation.’
This is obviously not a post about shoes, but I’m only taking one pair to work tomorrow.