Why embracing (not suppressing) your femininity could help boost your career in a male dominated profession

by  Anna De Vere

 

Cracking the Executive Presence code  –  A woman in a male dominated business world

Regardless of what area of business you are in, displaying EXECUTIVE PRESENCE or EP is the key to gaining promotion and respect.

EP rests on three pillars:

– How you act (GRAVITAS)

– How you speak (COMMUNICATION)

– How you look (APPEARANCE).

For women in a mostly male dominated environment, these three steps can be daunting resulting in the individual opting for one of two easy ways out.

  1. Appearance blunders: Bottled blonde, flashy jewellery, too much make-up, plunging neckline & too short skirts. Selling their femininity.
  2. Dressing in dark suits to blend in with their male counterparts. Not selling their femininity

In either case, when they finally achieve that senior level and no longer need to “play the game” they may well have lost their individuality and even some of their personality.

At cmbimage (the corporate division of Colour Me Beautiful – the UK’s leading image consultancy) we are often contacted by recently appointed senior female executives who have tried to morph into a man’s world but, with new found responsibilities, don’t know how to dress to be themselves. We always encourage women to “showcase their strengths”.

First, by understanding your body shape, you can ultimately dress the body you have rather than the body you want. Clothing is either constructed along straight lines; which gives a garment a more rigid, structured form, or along curved lines, which gives the more fluid shape that tends to follow the curves of the body. Once you start to understand your body shape you will be able to shop for flattering clothes that work with you and reflect your femininity.

Leading in heels: Mediacom CEO: Karen Blackett. Photo: marketingmagazine.co.uk

Leading in heels: Mediacom CEO: Karen Blackett. Photo: marketingmagazine.co.uk

Secondly, is the understanding of your own colouring and what colours make you more approachable and why. This is determined by hair and eye colour along with skin tone and everyone falls in to one of six different palettes.

For example: If you have dark hair and a darker skin tone you are a “deep” and will be washed out by pale colours. A dark grey or black suit will work perfectly for you but rather than a traditional white shirt you can wear two deep colours together. So team it up with a purple, scarlet or burgundy top.

If you have blonde hair and pale skin you are a “light” and a typical dark business suit with crisp white shirt will instantly make you look tired and pale. However a mid-grey with a soft white, salmon or icy violet top will not only complement your colouring with you but will reflect a positive business attitude too.

Tech girl- Facebook COO: Sheryl Sandberg. Photo: Time Magazine

Tech girl- Facebook COO: Sheryl Sandberg. Photo: Time Magazine

With 55% of the first impressions we make based on what we “SEE”, discovering your body shape and colouring will ensure you get noticed for the right reasons.

Anna De Vere is the Director of Corporate Training and Development at CMB Image. For more tips, check out their website www.cmbimage.co.uk

For more on taking control of your career, download the Spring Issue of Naija Living now to read more.

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