Ever since I started going to conferences, I’ve been at a loss for what to wear. The men in my field pride themselves in the aloof state of their dress when presenting their results, and it’s not uncommon to see them presenting in jeans, a t-shirt, and flip flops. But for women, there is an unspoken rule that to be taken seriously, jeans and a t-shirt just aren’t going to cut it.
It’s a strange catch-22, because if you don’t dress well then you’re more likely to be blown off, but if you dress too well then you’re seen as over-compensating and taken less seriously, and similarly if you dress too femme. Conference presentations lie right in a criss-cross of gendered expectations and male-dominated culture.
As the years have gone by, and my ambitions to stay in academia have risen, I’ve taken to seeing what the other women in my field wear when presenting. Adopting this into my own presentation fashion has largely meant pant suits, although when I include the jacket it’s pushing me towards the “overdressed” side when my (male) colleagues start to ask me whether I’m doing an interview that day, and a few pieces of jewelry including my wedding ring, a small necklace, and large nerdy earrings. I’m already on the tall side (tall girls rule), so I tend to steer away from heels, although many other women wear them well when discussing the intricacies of their research.
What have you worn to conferences, and how has it affected interactions with your colleagues?