Dressing in Tech: T-shirts Don’t Get Promoted

This is the third and final installment of a series. Check out Dressing in Tech: The Hoodie Curse  and Dressing in Tech: It’s Not Me, It’s Your Hoodie.

Dress Up to Level Up

I’ve been fortunate in my career to see several women rise in the ranks of game companies into management and executive positions.  It’s been an empowering thing to witness.

For each of these brilliant, driven women, I noticed a turning point in the way they presented themselves. They went from dressing very casually and comfortably to being noticeably more polished – right around the time they were gunning for a new position or promotion.

This sounds pretty normal, right? Refer to the old adage, “Dress for the position you want,” which I believe is accepted in most industries. At the core of it, I don’t have a problem with putting forth more effort to give yourself a boost. The part I find troublesome is that it doesn’t apply to the men in games. Sure, there are exceptions, but in my experience I have seen that most women in leadership positions dress up, while the men in leadership positions kick it much more casually – some still in jeans and a hoodie.

We’re treading in murky water here, because I can’t definitively say those admirable and determined women at the top would not have achieved their positions without dressing the part. I can only point out the trends I observe:

  • Most of the women were promoted after they stepped up their wardrobe/appearance.
  • Proportionally, more men were promoted without changing their appearance at all.

Equality? Don’t make me laugh.

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Does it really suck that much?

Yes, it really does. The disregard and double standards often make it really challenging to navigate the workplace.

On occasion I take advantage of the very loose standards to dress however I damn well please. Some days (not many), I do indeed dress in jeans, a hoodie, and sneaks. Those are the days when I can’t bring myself to care about much of anything and the world is lucky that I manage to get dressed at all. But in the interest if my career and a desire to be taken seriously, I do try to dress up. (Just one more reason for my No Pants Policy.)

Back at the beginning of this mini series, I outlined the pros of casual dress in tech. Now that we have explored the reality, let’s rewrite them to match:

  • Men spend more time focusing on getting the job done, rather than what to wear. Women must do both.
  • Casual attire can be an equalizer in the work place for men – making male CEOs as approachable as any dev. Female executives need to dress up and still be approachable.
  • For men, cash that would have been spent on a new pair of slacks can instead go toward that new game or console. For women, cash needs to be spent on clothes and games so that they can look good while maintaining industry expertise.
  • Hoodies and sneakers are comfortable, which is really great for men.

These are the conclusions and objections I’ve collected through my experience.  I would be very interested to hear about others’ experiences. Feel free to comment here or reach out on any of the usual social channels.

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