How Does The White House Think Women Dress for Work?

How Does The White House Think Women Dress for Work?

Published: Apr 15, 2014
Last Updated: Aug 4, 2014
by Annie Pilon
In Employment

Women work in a variety of different industries and because of that, there isn’t just one way to depict women in the workplace. But that’s what the White House recently tried to do, and the move was met with plenty of criticism.

Last week, the Obama administration sent out an email containing a graphic with statistics about the wage gap as part of its campaign for equal pay for women. Instapundit first drew attention to the story. The graphic contained a depiction of two female professionals in dresses (seen above).

Nia-Malika Henderson of She The People explained why some have issues with the graphic:

“It pictures two women, one in a pink dress carrying a handbag, the other in an orange dress, and both are wearing oh-so-practical stilettos. This is exactly what working women wear to work every day, right?  All those women who are lawyers, and doctors, and cashiers, and investment bankers, and biochemists, and nursing assistants and architects and engineers and cashiers at the Piggly Wiggly?  Perhaps this is why Obama was so focused on dry-cleaning bills at the White House signing ceremony? This is just not great messaging or symbolism for a White House that wants to also focus on women in minimum wage jobs.  It screams “Sex and the City,” not “9 to 5.”

What do you think of the White House’s depiction of women in the workplace? Do you consider it to be a huge misstep or a simple artistic choice that doesn’t truly illustrate the White House’s point of view?

It doesn’t show a very diverse view of working women, to be sure. Women don’t just work as secretaries for Mad Men-esque companies as the graphic might suggest. A dress and stilettos wouldn’t exactly be practical for a surgeon, factory worker or restaurant manager. The average female business owner doesn’t dress this way either.

However, some women do choose to wear pink dresses and heels to work and they should be taken just as seriously as those who don’t. Perhaps the White House’s graphic was trying to suggest that women shouldn’t have to hide their femininity to be taken seriously in the workplace.

Women might hold all of these diverse jobs, but if they are still depicted as they were 50 years ago, then attitudes that typecast women as high heel-wearing secretaries haven’t changed as much as they should. There is no problem with a woman choosing to wear a pink dress and heels to work and there is no problem with showing that in a graphic. But it’s far from the only way to depict working women.


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Annie Pilon

Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found on her personal blog Wattlebird, and exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

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