The make-up wars: powder equals power

The make-up wars:  powder equals power

It came as precisely no surprise to me that a study conducted by Richard Russell of the Department of Psychology at Gettysburg College in collaboration with researchers from Chanel Fragrance & Beauty Research & Innovation that looked at the perceived impact of wearing make-up found that women who wear make-up may benefit from a career boost.

But is it right? Over this week and next, team GCN are going to battle it out – and, you know what, I am decidedly pro.

Let’s break this down – first, I should, of course, acknowledge that no one should have to wear make-up. And yes, as Anna Hunter over on Get The Gloss argues, ‘intellect, skill, achievements and mastery of our role’ should always be the primary factors in determining our career path in an ideal world.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we? And frankly, when the world we do live in pays women 14.1 percent less for doing the same job (and even less for BAME women), we need all the help we can get. Now, it’s not often that you’ll hear me saying ‘poor ickle wickle men with their massive great paychecks’ but this is one area where men are at a distinct disadvantage.

For while there’s no study (that I know of) about our perception of men wearing make-up in the workplace – I’m fairly sure that there would be some discrimination going on there. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that a man wearing make-up in the workplace would be at a professional disadvantage. That means there’s no mascara to open up the eyes when you’ve not had much sleep. There’s no hiding a nervous sweat with a dab of powder and there’s no adding a little rouge to mask a hangover.

It’s rare that women have a means to get ahead that is uniquely at their disposal. And make-up is ours.

And it’s not just outside perception that’s influenced by whether or not you’re wearing mascara – it affects the way you feel on the inside too. While there have been many, many days when I’ve gone to work make-up free; faced with a job interview, pitch or appraisal there is no way on earth that I would show up bare faced. For not only does the ritual of applying make-up beforehand have an almost meditative effect on me, calming me and allowing me to collect my thoughts but also wearing make-up makes me feel confident.

I’m sure that if you did a study on whether brushing your hair influences the way people perceive you at work, it would conclude that it did. In other words, no one is asking you to get out the contouring kit every time you want a raise but everyone knows that clean, pressed clothes and a neat appearance count, whether you’re up for promotion or simply dropping your kid at day care. These things contribute to an overall impression of competence – and that, ultimately, is how you get ahead. And that is why I will always iron my daughter’s school uniform (well, actually my husband does it but you know what I mean).

And if it’s good enough for Emmy-award-winning journalist and television news anchor Ana Cabrera, it’s good enough for me thanks very much.  I’ll leave you with a quote she gave Refinery 29: “The day I got the job [at CNN] I was wearing black mascara to feel feminine and confident.”

Case closed.

What do you think? Should women wear make-up to get ahead? Stay tuned for the rebuttal, coming to a screen near you next week…

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