To Use Or Not To Use Makeup At Office, Is The Question!

Posted: May 19, 2016

Is makeup at office a confidence booster? What does it say about the professional perception of women? To use, or not to use? To manipulate or to change it?

Makeup has been a controversial subject among feminists. Some believe that makeup is a powerful tool, for controlling and manipulating how people perceive you, while others believe that the practice is shallow and reinforces the idea that a woman is just a pretty face. Many use it because it is the norm and others consider it fun.

Feminism is after all about having all the choices, so women should be able to choose weather or not to wear makeup. There are strong arguments for and against wearing make up. Here I want to explore the role of makeup at office.

Confidence

Many say makeup makes them feel more confident. Studies show that women suffer a confidence lag in the work place. If some find that make up helps them voice their opinions then why not use it to bridge the confidence barrier? But others worry that makeup is a crutch that enables one to cover up one’s insecurities, instead of working on eliminating them.

Networking

Networking is very important for success in today’s world. A certain connection or recommendation can set you on a career path. “Don’t judge a book by the cover” is an age old saying. Yet how many of us are guilty of it while browsing through hundreds of book in a shop? The same is true with networking.

Who you choose to talk to at a conference full of people, many of whom you don’t know, may well be decided by their appearance. Many argue that makeup helps you make a good first impression. After that you will still need your competence and intelligence to see you through your career, but make up may help you get a foot in the door.

The many professional faces of makeup

Some think of makeup as a form of self expression. They believe you can get creative with it and make a statement. Applying make up well also requires skill.

Make up allows you to get the look you need. A friendly look, an efficient look or a glamorous look.

Going further, one can use makeup to manipulate how people feel about you. In a casual cocktail gathering at a conference a friendly look may help you network. A likeable naive look may make it easier for you to get help finding your way around the workplace on the first day. As the boss in office, an efficient and competent look may serve you better.

Fight them or join them?

However shallow it may seem, perception plays a huge role in the workplace and society in general. I am strongly reminded of Vikram Seth’s version of the Hare And the Tortoise in Beastly Tales. Nobody cared that the tortoise won the race, because the hare was so much more popular and glamorous.

Studies show that makeup helps a woman get further in her career. Should you not use all the tools available to you? On the other hand, every time you use this tool, you condone its use. Do we really desire a workplace that judges an employee’s competence based on how likeable, approachable or efficient they look?

Can makeup imply more than beauty?

Some argue, that the fact that a woman wears makeup effectively to get ahead – it is an indirect reflection of her ambition, resourcefulness and enthusiasm. People dress in neat ironed clothes to make a favourable and professional impression. So is makeup qualitatively any different? But then again to what extent are we comfortable selling our appearance, especially when the job we are being recruited for, has little to do with it?

How far do we go?

Makeup is here to stay. But it is probably a good idea to know why you wear make up and how much you depend on it. There are very few absolutes and most things are a matter of degrees.

It is nice to feel confident and attractive and makeup may help with that, but it is also important to accept ageing and the limitations and imperfections of the body. What happens when makeup is no longer enough to correct your imperfections? Do you move on to plastic surgery? And then what?

What are we telling the kids?

Schools are a place of learning for kids, but for teachers they are the workplace. Recently, teachers in some schools have been asked to dress in certain ways, or use make up to achieve a look that appeals to their students. It is a manipulation technique. If students find you likeable, they are more likely to pay attention to what you say. But do we want to reinforce the idea that people who look likeable are indeed likeable? Will this help them choose suitable friends and spouses?

Manipulation has penetrated every walk of human life. Advertisers are not above targeting children directly. But schools are trusted with the child’s ethical, physical and intellectual development. Shouldn’t schools be the one place where children learn to look beneath the surface and learn values? Teachers can serve as role models that inspire kids to achieve greatness. Why are we reducing them to service providers, when their job is to shape tomorrow’s society?

So what do you, the readers, think? Is makeup at office a good thing, or not? 

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Image source: woman applying makeup at work by Shutterstock.

Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to

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