Silicon Valley women execs were front and center in the Sunday Styles section of the New York Times on August 5th in an article focused on how “Techies Break a Fashion Taboo.” According to the article it seems in the San Francisco Bay Area “a growing group of women is bucking convention not only by being women in a male dominated industry, but also by unabashedly embracing fashion.”
Savvy designers are designing for women in the tech world because those women are seen as an influential force and an important and growing demographic worth paying attention to – now and in the foreseeable future. According to one designer, Stacey Bendet Eisner, of Alice and Olivia, women in the tech field “want an element of sophistication to their clothes because they want to be taken seriously.” Ironically, one chief executive, Ruzwana Bashir, of Peek, a travel start up, was surprised that some people in the Bay Area were distrustful of fashion. “Perhaps they think they’re not taken seriously if they make an effort. In the end, I’d rather wear a nice dress, and if someone is not going to take me seriously, that’s so superficial…You can be this super-successful woman who’s smart and effective but still feminine.”
The article highlights the fact that only 5% of executives in high tech are women, and only 11% are tech investors. Given the low numbers, there can be advantages to bringing attention to yourself via your style. One investor, Theresia Gouw Ranzetta, from Accel Partners, a venture capital firm, explains: “When it’s a sea of young guys in jeans and hoodies, and the V.C.’s are in their khakis and button-down uniform, it’s kind of a benefit to be different.”
Magaly Masci, French-born, senior vice president with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and an international advocate in women’s leadership, is a self-described “fashionista” who loves to dress with class and sophistication in the workplace and having fun with casual attire. When asked about her impressions of the article, Masci gave her point of view: “What is truly important is understanding that fashion is another way of expressing yourself and it represents something different for everyone. As such you should embrace your fashion sense with pride. Whatever your style is, it is yours and women should be encouraged to find their own fashion statement within the workplace, whether it is tech, financial industry, law, accounting or leading a company.”
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new chief executive sums up the connection of fashion to technology in a powerful way: “My willingness to talk about [fashion] is because I believe the way we’ll get more people into computer science and ultimately more women into computer science is by making it really clear that you can be yourself and don’t need to give up parts of yourself to succeed.”
For more on the power of fashion and great conversations about women and fashion, listen to Sylvia Global’s interview with Randolf Duke on the Beauty of a Woman Inside AND Sylvia Global’s interview with Keith Holman on how Fashion Instills Confidence.