I often hear from my Style Coaching clients that work in historically male dominated fields, like medicine, tech, law, and finance, that it can be challenging to find the right balance between being feminine, stylish and even colorful and looking intelligent, powerful and professional.
They want to express their personal style and feel like themselves but they also want to be taken seriously by their colleagues. They want to genuinely feel like they can ‘have it all’ meaning both looking like a feminine woman and being respected professionally in the work place.
So where do you land with your wardrobe when you want to own your femininity and look pulled together, but you also want to be successful and respected in your given field?
Take a note from some of the world’s most powerful women and their style choices..
1. Arianna Huffington, Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group, AOL:
Style Advice: Arianna loves the philosophy of ‘rinse, wash & repeat’. She’s not afraid of repurposing her clothes, despite being a highly visible person. She stated on Thrive Global, “It’s [repeating ‘go to’ outfits & basics] a great way to begin to close the style gap, affording women the same freedom (in the form of time and money and thought) that men have in putting together their outfits. That doesn’t mean we can’t still take the time to thoughtfully select an outfit for a certain occassion — it just means we no longer feel like we have to. So, women of the working world, unite! We have nothing to lose but our thoughtfully draped gold chains. And heels, and dresses, and the hours and hours of time and effort we spend getting ready. Think of what we could do with those hours — build businesses, spend time with our loved ones, sleep, change the world…”.
Notice that in the above and below images, she is wearing a well-tailored white pant suit with chic textured heels, and all she did was simply change out her tops. Make sure to have your own ‘go to’ great fitting, professional basics that you can simply switch up using personality pieces, like patterned tops.
2. Mary Callahan Erdoes, CEO, Asset Management, JP Morgan Chase:
Style Advice: Mary Callahan isn’t afraid to look sharply tailored with interesting details. The use of color, unique necklines on her suit jackets, as well as fun details on her work basics allows her to remain feminine while still being a powerhouse. She does a lovely job of letting her clothes standalone by keeping her accessories more classic and minimal. All in all it’s important to allow for two focal points in your work attire so that you never look overdone or that you tried too hard.
3. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook:
Style Advice: Sheryl’s style is the epitome of classic with her arsenal of feminine, figure hugging sheath dress. In an article on The Guardian we learned, “Sheryl Sandberg has a clear formula for what she wears: fitted dresses, medium-height heels, block colours in the blue-red-purple arc. Not yellow, not pink, no print. No jewellery apart from earrings. It is remarkably consistent.” This point touches back to Arianna’s stick to what works for YOU and makes you feel best, and don’t be afraid to repeat that formula. Focus on looking professional for your work environment and dress in a way that evokes confidence and your personality, and don’t worry about what others think about your work attire. It will simply distract you from what you’re there to do–succeed!
4. Indra Nooyi, CEO, PepsiCo:
Style Advice: Gorgeous jewel tone accents that really pop are Indra’s signature when it comes to professional attire. She appears to feel her strongest in these hues, while also knowing they flatter her skin tone beautifully. She keeps the rest of her look subdued and understated with classic pearls, black pencil skirts and sheath dresses, and almond toe pumps. Indra also sets a great example of wearing natural looking makeup that isn’t obvious but also doesn’t make her look washed out (in the words of Calvin Klein, “The best thing is to look natural, but it takes makeup to look natural.”).
5. Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors:
Style Advice: Working for one of the world’s top car manufacturing companies, Mary knows how to be understated, a little edgy and always feminine. She seems to have a love of leather (aka her edge/personality piece) and uses tailored leather jackets as her way of making a basic pant suit or sheath dress all her own. Just like all of the ladies featured in this post she understands the importance of nicely tailored pieces that showcase the fact that she is a woman that takes herself seriously and others should do the same.
6. Bozoma Saint John, Chief Brand Officer for Uber:
Style Advice: Moving to the United States from Ghana at age 13, Bozoma had to learn fast to just be herself (and to be confident!) as there was no way to blend in as a 6 foot tall, lanky African girl in Colorado. She shares more about her inspiring story HERE. That has obviously influenced her killer yet professional style. As the former Global Marketing Executive for Apple and now as an exec at Uber, she has managed to make her unique look work for her with colorful, tailored frocks, and statement-making accessories.
These women are not afraid to showcase their own unique style that embraces their version of femininity while still dominating their specific field. What they all have in common is that they focus on perfectly tailored (aka your seamstress is your best friend) pieces, blocks of color, interesting details, and an outfit formula that works for them and allows them to feel powerful. But most importantly, what they all have is confidence. They own their look, they own their intelligence and the right to be at the top of their industry. And now it’s time for YOU to do the same. Dress the part ladies, ignore the naysayers, and give them all you’ve got because the world needs more stylish AND successful women!