Thursday, June 3, 2010

On being too hot to be a banker

Blog friends, what do you think of this Village Voice article titled "Is This Woman Too Hot to Be a Banker?" The gist of it: female banker Debrahlee Lorenzana got repeated warnings about her provocative dress at Citibank. She claims that she tried to tone down her look, but to no avail. Her managers kept making comments to her about her appearance. Then she was fired with little other reason given other than the history of complaints about her wardrobe.

So that readers can better judge this situation for themselves, there is a series of photos accompanying the Village Voice article. My own take, briefly: as a heterosexual female, I'm probably not in the best person to judge a woman's looks, but I'll grant readily that she's quite attractive. Some of the clothing in the pictures doesn't seem risque, but others... seems to push the boundaries of what the more conservative workplaces I've been around would consider appropriate. I would as a general rule avoid visible cleavage (see, e.g., the tight fitting turtleneck in #14), brightly colored snakeskin heels (see #8), and heels over about 3' or so (hard to tell exactly from some of the pictures). The suit in #13 looks fine. The tightly fitted jacket in #25 might be OK in some of the more business casual environments I've worked in, but I might be more cautious in a more conservative environment like, say, a bank. I hasten to add that there are some significant exceptions to this rule; some of my best friends work for Reason and all, where I understand the office environment is every bit as laissez faire as its writers' economic views. But it is generally the better part of valor to assume that the environment in which you're working is more toward the conservative pole than otherwise. That said, it sounds like Lorenzana's managers could have been significantly more tactful about this all.

This is interesting also because I've been reading Deborah Rhode's new book on appearance discrimination on the Metro. I'm not convinced by Rhode's arguments, for reasons which I may write about in a later post once I've actually finished the book. But it's interesting to think that there are these reverse appearance discrimination cases out there which don't seem to fit particularly well into the framework that Rhode is describing (though in fairness, they simply may be described at a later point in her book.)

Finally, I can't believe I am actually typing these words, but I am really curious to read what Ann Althouse thinks of all of this.

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