I naturally gravitate towards the strictly business topics for my blog, but this week there’s an issue on my mind which is a little more wide reaching.
For the past few days the airwaves have been abuzz with commentary about Today show host Karl Stefanovic’s big reveal: he wore the same blue suit every day for a year. The catch being, that nobody noticed.
The purpose of course was to use his own little act of civil disobedience to demonstrate that society scrutinises what women wear, and judges them more harshly.
On the flip side – and especially in a business setting – men are encumbered by the bare essentials: namely, being clean and tidy, wearing an ironed shirt, trousers, and relatively un-scuffed shoes. The rest flies under the radar.
It’s an undeniable fact of life that we make face-value judgements on one another, literally all the time. To say otherwise is simply untrue. After all, ‘first impressions count’ is a common expression with good reason.
When somebody comes in for a job interview looking like a dog’s breakfast, it’s a problem. It shows that they either don’t have the skills to present well for an important meeting, or perhaps worse, don’t care about what impression they make. Obviously for any client facing or customer service roles, this is a deal breaker.
What we can do however, is to be aware of our propensity towards bias, and actively counter it with rationality.
In a radio interview I heard with Karl Stefanovic yesterday, he made the comment that in the case of the Today show, it tends to be women who write in and call with both complaints and compliments about co-host Lisa Wilkinson’s appearance.
The comment had the effect of watering down what was otherwise a brilliant social experiment.
It’s time to stop drawing a line in the sand and pointing the finger. It’s on all of us to recognise when a person’s appearance is relevant, as in the case of potential employment, and when it’s completely by-the-by. This is 2014 after all; let’s hope we’re still not having this conversation in 2114.