Last week, I viewed an interview between Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer and TechCrunch founder, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch Disrupt SF.
It was fascinating!
What could have easily been written off in the interview as ‘a boy being boys’, as Mr. Arrington teased Ms. Mayer about her recent Vogue profile, soon appeared to be a gateway to provoking the Yahoo CEO to defend her professional credibility in front of the predominately male audience. He was clearly trying to get audience laughs, but he used humor in service of condescension as he criticized first Yahoo’s new logo, then offering up the fact the he couldn’t understand why Yahoo’s number of active users was up and continuing with whether or not she deserved any credit for the positive changes taking place at the company. He threw in a few backhanded compliments, but overall the digs continued. Ms. Mayer handled it all like a pro and made the best of the interview. I could not help but notice that Mr. Arrington did not use the same disrespectful interview style with his male interviewees.
Nellie Bowles’ article in the San Francisco Chronicle sheds further light on TechCrunch Disrupt SF, its sexually-charged presentations and the after-parties. She wanted to get the female perspective and ended up getting a whole lot more.
One female attendee said, “I’m just weary as f-. Inured to it all,” she said. “But if you make a big deal about being a woman, get all dressed up and call attention to yourself, it cheapens the brand of female.”
By the door, one man, spilling his drink, leaned over and interjected.
“Are you writing about the guy-to-girl ratio? Women should feel privileged to be here! They are the lucky!” he said. “No, just kidding.”
You may be wondering, why am I writing about this topic on a fashion blog? We have all been told all of our lives that style is frivolous, right?
But we know better. Or do we?
What happened at TechCrunch Disrupt SF is a heightened example of what happens to so many professional women at all levels in all career fields. It is not about the clothes. It is not about beauty. It is not about sex. Style is any woman’s sense of self. Style for the professional woman is an expression of her vitality, self-confidence, and power to superbly deliver her product, service, or philosophy in the marketplace.
Great style (combined with wit, intelligence, and hard work) is an effective communication tool for women (and for men) and yes, it can be fun. It’s our visual voice. In fact, appropriate, expressive and contemporary business style is more important than ever as the world we live in becomes increasingly visual through technological advancements and the expansion of social media outlets.
Today’s modern professional understands that great style is just smart business.
The TechCrunch event raises another important question; do we women allow men too much sway over what women wear in the workplace? As women, don’t we need to own our personal identities? We do not need to dress like men. And we don’t have to turn away from our love of style to compete in the corporate (or political) world; we can do it ‘our way’ and win big on our own merits – just the way Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer seems to be doing. By the way, who didn’t notice that Marissa Mayer looked fabulous?
What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s not just about the clothes? Does your work environment support appropriate, dynamic professional women’s style?
Image credit: Photo by Tommy Ton of Nicole Warne from Gary Pepper Girl for Style.com. Graphics by Kristina Moore for Corporate Fashionista.