Atta Ikede

August 10, 2009

Ruffles and miniskirts in a tech company

Filed under: Uncategorized — attaikede @ 1:17 pm

I think it’s important to look at this in the context of a youngish tech company, cuz I think there are lots of things you can get away with in a tech company that aren’t acceptable in formal environments or older environments/industries.

One of the female engineers and I have been working out of the NYC office for the last week. Manhattan at this time of year is hot and muggy, which is refreshing after the constant chill in San Francisco. It feels good to walk around in a strappy tanktop or sleeveless dress all day, and we’ve taken advantage of the weather to do so. My coworker started remarking that she wanted to dress the same way at work, but I disagreed, so we got into a little debate about it.

I think it’s ok to wear stuff like this here but not ok to wear this in San Francisco for the following reasons:

1. we’ve got an actual office that we’re sharing here. No cubicles, which means there’s more privacy. Plus the office is tiny, so it’s not like 200 coworkers are seeing me in whatever outfit I’m wearing. It’s more like 10.

2. it’s super hot outside! Every female in this office is wearing a dress right now and cuz it’s a sales office here, they’re all pretty stylish.  The other women in tech at work don’t often dress up, and when they do, it’s not often a “girly” or “dressy” look. Wearing these outfits back home would be more of a deviation from the norm than the same outfits are here.

My coworker’s counterargument to my points here were that with our reputations established at work, it’s ok for us to wear more feminine things to work once in a while. It doesn’t matter whether we’re wearing a pink sundress or a tshirt and jeans – we’ll be taken seriously no matter what.

My argument is that while our points in meetings would be taken seriously, dressing that way in our normal work environment adds a layer of potential weirdness that I just would rather stay away from. The women in tech contingent at work, such as it is, is tiny! 4 women in engineering and 3 in PM. I’m the youngest. The oldest is about 40. I think we’re too small of group for one of us to start being frilly and girly.




  1. I normalize my clothes. Or as my sister says I don’t dress as hip as I use to. And its true. I can’t come to work looking like I belong at vogue, when I have to bend over printers and work with paper.

    Clothes can’t stand out too much but it also can blend in so much that your just plan boring. It’s a tricky balance. How to be cool without looking like an attention seeker.

    As for sun dresses and tank tops I usually put on a jacket – see neutralizing.

    Comment by Julie — August 11, 2009 @ 7:47 am

  2. Sorry meant to write “it can’t blend in so much that you are just plan boring”

    Comment by Julie — August 11, 2009 @ 7:47 am

  3. oh and by plan I mean plain. I’m glad I’m not a writer.

    Comment by Julie — August 11, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  4. I personally think that you should be able to wear whatever you want to, whether you fit in with the other same-sex people or not. As long as you feel comfortable, the clothing is not hindering yor work performance and your clothing does not offend others (cut too short or inappropriate language)then it should not matter what you wear. I am required to wear green surgical scrubs at work and I hate it. I personally feel much better in girly clothing and often dress in such clothes on my days off. I feel frumpy in “plain” clothes and do not like to be seen in them. I do not think anyone would take your ideas less seriously at all… in fact, I have always thought that the people that dress up professionally take more pride in their appearance and will have that same work ethic and take their job more seriously. And hey, when you get down to it, most people will compliment you when you are dressed up and look good and we all can use more compliments in our life :)

    Comment by Lisa — August 12, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

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