“Looks the part”: the kiss of (career) death?
I read the news with two sets of eyes. First, the obvious search for what’s up. The other, assessing what current events mean for women. This past week, I read a phrase that hurled me back decades in my own career–“Looks the part”– a set of words that may seem like a compliment…or be used as a reason to hold women back. But when the language is associated with decisions regarding the highest offices in our land, I just had to write.
The ugly truth about Trump’s fixation with looks
US president-elect’s cabinet choices appear to be more about style than substance
Each day, a parade of contenders arrives on the set of his shiny Trump Tower where an attractive hostess greets them at the revolving door, before rising to the upper floors for the casting session.
Trump’s choices to date suggest a preference for billionaires and military leaders aligned with his wallet and world view.
But now that secretary of state spot is up for grabs, the criterion is even more refined.
Asked why former governor Mitt Romney was up for secretary of state, a top aide quotes Trump as saying Romney “looks the part”.
Looks the part?
True, Romney’s chiseled jaw, perfect posture and tailored suits telegraph suave confidence but is that why Trump might choose him to represent the US around the globe?
Trigger-happy Twitter finger
On a personal note, he seems more even-tempered than his new commander-in-chief with the trigger-happy Twitter finger.
But hey, Mitt’s got that handsome, ageing model thing going – so, he’s a shoo-in.
In fact, he’s made the callback list with a dinner appointment Tuesday night. Are table manners under review?
“Looks the part” (or worse, not looking the part) is language women know well, especially in the jobs market.
I recall, as a young public relations director, my boss introduced me at a board meeting: “Sure, she’s a dynamo but she’s the prettiest PR director in the city.”
I was floored. I felt like a doll.
Fast forward 10 years, as I left my Fortune 500 advertising director job, my EVP (executive vice president) bid me farewell: “Don’t worry, I’ll remember you as more than just a pretty face.”
Was that the sum of all that hard work?
Looks cut both ways. Women deemed too attractive risk being taken as a distraction or as unserious.
Too old, too large or too “something” and we’re just not the right “fit” to represent a brand or a boss (no matter how portly or oddly-coifed he or she might be.)
Statistics show that job candidates who are deemed unattractive, or obese, are less likely to be hired, male or female, though women fare worse.
Yes, but sadly more true than not. And it crushes blossoming careers, human potential and our very souls.
Back to the cabinet: the focus on appearance makes me rethink about the rationale behind the other contenders.
If Trump chooses Rudy Giuliani as secretary of state, is he leaning toward an ornery Rottweiler vibe?
Or if he picks yet another General, do the uniform, crewcut and gold stars shout we may be on the warpath?
Trump has had a bit of a looks fixation throughout his campaign.
He mocked Marco Rubio’s height and tweeted that Chris Christie ought “to take it easy on the cheeseburgers”.
Trump goes full throttle on females. He insulted opponent Carly Fiorina’s face, compared Ted Cruz’s wife unfavourably to his model spouse Melania and, among his many Hillary blows, said: “She doesn’t look presidential”.
Perhaps it’s time for a look in the mirror?
When Trump’s cast is vetted by the US Congress, the committee will assess experience, judgment, and records, not hairdos.
Time to get looks off the table and face what truly matters.
Mary Lou Quinlan is a New York-based author, actor and advocate for women. Her latest play Work – about women’s careers – launches in 2017. Visit justaskawoman.com
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