Is Long Hair Unprofessional?
I'm not alone in wondering whether chopping your hair off is a prerequisite for a woman's success. From politicians like Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Dole, and Nancy Pelosi to well-known litigators like Jamie Gorelich, Sheila Birnbaum, Amy Schulman, and Maureen Mahoney, short hair is the status quo. Does it have to be that way?
I like my long hair. I've always received compliments on it; I like having the option to curl it or straighten it or put it up; and, I admit it, my long hair makes me feel feminine and attractive. But, is it holding me back?
Susan Ehrlich Martin and Nancy Jurik wrote an interesting book, Doing Justice, Doing Gender, and a whole chapter is devoted to women in the legal profession. The authors note that "by controlling the professional context, men behave in ways that show that other men are taken seriously and accorded respect. Conversely, the way men talk about women and their appearance treats women as invisible, devalues them, and affects their ability to perform effectively." If this is true, then does it make sense that women might try to "blend in" by wearing pants suits and cutting off their hair? Martin and Jurik give the example that if "a judge allows the opposing attorney to label a woman attorney’s appearance a 'distraction,' it signals to others that it is acceptable to use a woman’s looks as the basis for objecting against other women attorneys." So, do successful women attorneys instinctively know that the way to get ahead is to detract from their appearance and is short hair part of that?