Surely there’s an app for this
April 14, 2019 7:01 PM   Subscribe

I’m a late 20s/early 30s (vague to protect my identity!!!) white woman in tech in Silicon Valley. Is there any actual research on how people in my field, in this region, react to how I might dress?

I realize there are a lot of caveats here; for instance, the idea that it’s on women to dress according to vague and shifting standards in order to be taken seriously, when ideally we would not have to prove ourselves in that way (especially when men wear wtf ever around here). However, frankly I’m sick of deciding what to wear to work and am more used to industries where the dress code is much clearer, and if there is actual research that might make me feel a bit less hamstrung... hey, why not.

Basically I’m looking for some research that says “we made men and women engineers look at a bunch of photots of women dressed in different ways and rate their maturity and competency as computer scientists based on appearance,” but you know, in the form of an actual study.

I know there are lots of random articles about this, and I know women can wear jeans and hoodies too, but as I’m getting a bit older now I’m sick of being mistaken for a 23 year old when I dress “cool” and am hoping, without much optimism, that there’s some secret subconscious method to how women are judged around here. Thaaaaaaaaanks.
posted by stoneandstar to Work & Money (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hey, no research but I am an engineer in my mid 30s, and people still think I am 25, regardless of what I wear. And dudes are still confused when I do a great job technically, even though they've seen me do it 100 times before. So one data point, but, I think just wear what you feel comfortable in.
posted by Kalmya at 1:16 AM on April 15


I don't know of any research, and I'm a dude who has worked in silicon Valley so I don't have direct personal experience. But if your primary concern is wanting to dress older/more mature, I do not think that is an advantage in Silicon Valley. Unlike in other industries, in my experience engineers are more likely to trust a 25 year old engineer in a position of authority than they are to trust a 40 year old, because the assumption is that the younger person must be a better coder to be in that position. So most older engineers I know deliberately dress in a younger style.

But it's also completely possible that there is a gender double standard here that I'm not aware of, so hopefully someone else will weigh in.
posted by JZig at 2:12 AM on April 15


But if your primary concern is wanting to dress older/more mature, I do not think that is an advantage in Silicon Valley. Unlike in other industries, in my experience engineers are more likely to trust a 25 year old engineer in a position of authority than they are to trust a 40 year old, because the assumption is that the younger person must be a better coder to be in that position.

I'm a transmasculine person generally presumed to be a cis man working in the tech industry. Like many transmasculine people, I'm routinely assumed to be younger than I am, especially in an office where the engineers skew young. It is not uncommon for me to have interactions where it becomes clear that I'm being perceived as less experienced or less competent than I am as a result. It's a great feeling (not) when you can feel the temperature of a "getting to know you" conversation completely change when it emerges you have a PhD. In other words, I don't know that it's an advantage for men to be perceived as significantly younger than they are, never mind women who also get hit by a gender effect that I don't.

OP, you're definitely not imagining this. As I'm sure you've noticed, many female engineers dress considerably nicer than male engineers, but then there are also women solidly in the jeans + t-shirt camp. I've never seen research, though. Frank conversation with female colleagues about any experimentation they've done is probably all you've got. (I think the perspectives of senior engineers vs managers would be particularly interesting here, if such people are available. My company has a noticeable engineer/manager clothing divide, regardless of gender.)
posted by hoyland at 3:35 AM on April 15 [3 favorites]




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