As a member of an organization, do you feel more inclined to follow a manager who is pleasant in appearance and behavior? Most likely. As a manager, are you likely to exude confidence if you are neatly groomed and well disposed? Indeed.
Beauty, which refers to that which is pleasing to the senses, or is physically attractive, helps managers in their roles. Positive characteristics are associated with managers who are perceived as attractive and dressed appropriately. It helps contribute to managers being viewed as competent, credible professionals in their own view, in the eyes of their subordinates and colleagues, and by clients and persons outside a particular business organization. It communicates one’s identity as a manager, including meanings of pr ofessionalism, competence, credibility and company loyalty. It is also a significant factor affecting people’s perceptions of appropriate business and social skills. In fact, in recent years, the attainment of interpersonal power through status and physical attractiveness has focused on dress. Beauty, through dress and grooming, helps in social interaction.
Back in the 1970s, when there was a remarkable increase in the number of women entering various careers at various levels, these female workers were not deemed as competent as the men in management tasks. Back then, women in business and higher management positions were in the minority. The challenge of navigating the world of work successfully for women arose.
Working women realized that to be successful like their male counterparts, not only did they need to have educational and personal qualifications, they also needed to learn certain rules and codes of behavior, including ways of talking, dressing, interacting and acting that were acceptable at the time. Indeed, dress and appearance were part of these codes. For women trying to negotiate the male-dominated world of work, finding the right way to dress can be very important for success. After all, beauty is more deeply embedded in the identity of women.
Today, not only is there a significant number of women in the workplace, there is also stronger women representation at various levels of management in different organizations. In the Philippine public sector, for instance, as of year 2000, 30 percent of those in senior administrative levels and 50 percent of those in middle administrative levels are women. Women managers, more than ever, are expected to create an appropriate appearance of themselves in accordance with the appropriate business image. They are expected to build a business image that is physically attractive.
Women managers express their unique selves through the outfits they wear. It is also believed that the higher a woman rises in the corporate ladder, the more comfortable she becomes at expressing herself and her creativity through her fashion sense. Her involvement in fashion is largely aesthetic. Attractiveness and formality should blend into a balanced business appearance. The range between formality and casualness is expressed in working women’s casual and formal, conservative clothes. There is a range of acceptable images that are appropriate for women in business as there is a great variety among women in different career positions. Women who work in clerical and support positions may find appearance less important than those in middle management who are trying to work their way up. Previous studies have found that highly motivated women stay consistent with their clothing preference and self-image. Women who held prominent roles in organizations tended to adopt external manifestations of beauty in their dress and personal grooming. Clothing is a symbol of the woman manager’s role. Dress most often than not, can affect a woman manager’s organizational experience.
While dressing appropriately is important in creating and maintaining the woman manager’s professional image, mixing and matching clothing items and accessories provide opportunities for aesthetic and creative play.
Through their choice of clothes, women receive personal gratification. Women managers experiment with varieties in color, pattern and texture of fabrics, style lines and silhouettes, and accessories. In the process, they feel more comfortable and happy with their image and their jobs.
Beauty, however, is not just physical. It is not enough to strive just for physical attractiveness. Physical beauty can only be as pleasing as that which genuinely emanates from the soul. People gravitate toward a woman manager who has character and virtue. This beauty of soul that “illuminates” is far more influential than an image that merely pleases the senses. True beauty is recognized by a man’s deep longing for the one, true and good in this life. When a woman manager is able to lead people through a path of virtue, the goals and processes which people in the organization go through become worthwhile. Externals stimulate but as Antoine de Saint-Exupery puts it in the book, The Little Prince, “what is essential is invisible to the human eye.”
Maria Victoria Tibon is the Chair of the Management and Organization Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University, where she teachesManagement Principles and Dynamics, Strategic Human Resource Management, Statistics, Econometrics, Business Ethics, and Action Research. She does research on tourism, entrepreneurship, sustainable business, governance, quality, and innovation. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.
MARIA VICTORIA P. TIBON