Career inspiration life Reflections WISE women in computer science

Wear What You Want

green rose sequin mini skirt
Credit: flickr / princess toadie

Today, I wore a mini-skirt (gray) over leggings (black) with ballet flats (gray) and a plain tshirt and cardi (both black). I wore my hair down, and (naturally) curly.

I know, I don’t normally share the details of my wardrobe, but bear with me – I have a point.

It was an ideal outfit for today – I just wore the leggings and tshirt when I was working from home in the morning and chilling out in the evening, the flats were fine to drive in, and when I went out to Girl Geek Dinners in the evening I didn’t feel under-dressed. Oh, and my friend totally loved my skirt.

And… it’s an outfit that I love. I got the skirt in San Francisco. The tshirt on a shopping trip with a friend in Ottawa, and the cardi when I was in Winnipeg for a women in Science and Engineering conference with the other girls from WISE.

The other week, I was at a panel about life as a woman in technology. And I was not wild about how it started with “you earn a LOT of money” (yes, I like nice handbags and tend to buy expensive jeans, but that’s not why I love my job), but then the woman said, here’s some advice – don’t wear a skirt.

Not – don’t wear a skirt to interview. Good advice, I spent much of my first round interviews sitting on the floor to reach the low whiteboard.

Not – don’t wear a skirt at first. My extremely scruffy friend was wearing flipflops and had wild hair… and was still asked if she was a PM. Someone asked me if I was a PM last week. I think it happens more if you’re dressed better. As you’re finding your way, dress more plainly? I can see some sense in that. It was definitely something that I – consciously or unconsciously – did.

But the advice that – pick this career ‘cos it pays well but you better subsume the part of yourself that likes pretty clothes, and fabulous shoes and charming handbags and accessories. That sucks. A lot of the time I wear jeans and tshirts, and tie my hair back, but a couple of times a week I want to not do that, and it’s important to me that I’m comfortable experimenting with clothes and wearing something fun.

The other week I wore wedge boots with this fluffy cuff. They are adorable. Only my female colleagues appeared to notice, although one of them did start stroking them.

Last winter I came into work wearing a white fluffy hat with two dangling pompoms, and bright pink snow boots. No-one commented. The following day I wore brown boots and a (still beautiful, but less noticeable hat – I do love winter hats) and one of my teammates said “you’re wearing different boots today”.

I don’t meet customers. I’m not presenting an image. I’m just being myself. I might worry about what I’m wearing for the thing that happens after work, but aside from not wanting to wear heels on days when I’m running around a lot, I don’t really think about what I wear at work. I’m Cate, Software Engineer on ___, not that girl, you know? The one with the curly hair.

I’m on board with don’t wear a skirt to an interview. I see the sense in dress plainly at first. But, I’d say, wear a skirt if you want to. Don’t feel like you have to check part of yourself at the door in order to be accepted. Some of my colleagues no doubt don’t get my choices of outfit, but y’know, I don’t get their love of board games. It’s not about being one of the guys, it’s about being one of the engineers. And that, I find, has sod-all to do with what you wear.

One reply on “Wear What You Want”

Agreed! I actually find that dressing more girly makes me more confident. I’m not really a leggings person, but I try to usually wear cute tops, cardigans, and cute flats or boots with a scarf. If I go for a t-shirt, I’ll pair it with a colourful scarf, a cardigan, and flats so it doesn’t look too bad. Basically, my fashion motto is to not look like a software developer. I don’t know why, but that’s something that I’ve started to care about in the last few years since I really started working.

That said, I did get some strange comments from coworkers when I tried to integrate my blazer and some of my blouses into my wardrobe, even with jeans!

My favourite pair of shoes is a pair of bright purple flats! I got tons of great compliments on those last year. I’m going to be sad when I’ve worn them out completely in another year or so.

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