Finding the right style of clothing as a woman in a male-dominated environment is not easy, writes Jasmin Kreutzer in her guest article. It is important to be authentic when it comes to clothing and not to adapt to men.

Being a unicorn among centaurs is certainly not the most pleasant feeling, as I have often experienced myself in countless sessions. Successful executives in business, politics and science are associated with a horde of suits whose color spectrum ranges between black and dark blue. Female executives appear to be more successful in male-dominated environments when they match the dress style and behavior of their male colleagues. A loud giggle or flashy lipstick remain the rarity. Strict hairstyles and striking glasses underline a serious appearance and should radiate leadership and competence.

Similarity generates sympathy, which has long been proven in many behavioral studies. Behavioral characteristics that everyone appreciates about themselves are automatically subconsciously seen in a similar counterpart. Many women have adapted in recent years – adapted in the way they dress and in their behavior. The credo of many women: simple dark clothes, dark suits. Clothing should not distract from one’s skills, but instead focus on what is essential, the ability to successfully run a company.

“Clothes make the man” – often quoted and taken for granted, long outdated, but always present in the minds of those who have to make decisions. In terms of behavioral psychology, it is understandable that the other person who comes very close to their own ego and self-image in terms of behavior, appearance and articulation receives high sympathy values. The resistance, mistrust and antipathy are all the stronger when there are strong dissonances in terms of similarity. Many women experience this to this day.

From a purely historical point of view, the proportion of women in management positions is still disproportionately low. Often women face a team of men. Colorful dresses, figure-hugging skirts and high heels deviate so much from the predominantly dark blue and black suit fraction that sympathy is difficult to develop due to the lack of similarity. In fact, antipathy is also accompanied by a loss of competence, since the qualities and characteristics that are unconsciously linked to it – decision-making power and sovereignty of a manager – not least the competence to successfully run a company – are not found in a green suit, but mostly in blue and black are located. Today the woman in purple and tomorrow the woman in green cannot be a core message that female bosses want to convey in the long term, and yet women seem to be mostly suppressing core female attributes by reproducing the code of conduct of the male-dominated executive floors.

Jasmin Kreutzer holds a Master of Finance and has a doctorate in finance. Since the beginning of this year she has been the founder of the start-up “Dr. Jasmin Kreutzer Organic Skincare GmbH”, a label for natural cosmetics and the cosmetics line “Magalie

However, this is a fatal mistake, because the key to acceptance is authenticity. Various studies show that mixed and female leadership benefits from the fact that emotional agility leads to more efficiency in companies and better communication in an organizational unit and ultimately to more sales, more earnings and a more successful company (cf. Simone Burel, Springer Publisher).

But these effects are absent when women suppress their authenticity and shed their intuition. The clothing is an expression of personality and authenticity goes hand in hand with the fact that personality and the perception of ourselves by the other person are identical. If the two do not match, the perception of a person is alien to others and rejection, prejudice and hostility are inevitable. In one of her Instagram posts (November 28, 2022), Tijen Onaran describes how we women are often seen by others as “(…) too loud, too quiet, too colourful, too bland. Too much opinion, not enough pushy (…)” are — We need to unlatch the pre-set anchor in the mind that brings color, high heels and lipstick along with painted fingernails, and step out of the pre-set Called Confirming Evidence Trap — toward authentic real leadership , in the form of strong, self-confident and emotionally agile leaders.

Because women in management positions are comparatively young and have so far been significantly underrepresented in boardrooms, supervisory and advisory boards, we still mostly subconsciously associate a successful leader with a man who leads a company to success in a dark suit. We have already left the tie and the handkerchief behind us, rolled up sleeves on the white shirt and an open collar today symbolize departure and a hands-on mentality. This stereotyping is already crumbling due to many female role models, who, through their visibility, encourage rethinking and draw women after them. However, women today are confronted with doubts about their competence and are at the mercy of increased distrust in specialist and managerial competence when they walk through the management floors of companies in high heels and colorful dresses with painted fingernails and modern make-up.

Women who authentically underline their personality with feminine clothing, who are open, approachable and communicative, who inspire and convince employees and business partners according to their nature, see themselves between two chairs. Inappropriate comments or implied loss of competence are often the result of an inappropriate individual appearance and increase barriers to management positions.

A lot is already changing, but more visibility and awareness are needed – an awareness that this subconscious association leads to a predetermined decision-making preference that is to the detriment of women in mostly male-dominated committees. This pre-established attribution of sovereignty, technical and managerial competence, which has settled in the subconscious, is anchored in the style of clothing and a male code of conduct, must be broken so that women have a fair chance in the management floors of companies and corporations

to move in and lead authentically. Sympathy comes from similarity, and sympathy is a kit of trust and cohesion that influences our decisions. But competence, assertiveness and leadership are independent of colorful outfits and high heels – says the woman who was the woman in purple yesterday and will be the woman in green tomorrow.

The Mission Female business network, founded by Frederike Probert, is actively committed to more female power in business, society, media, culture, sports and politics. It unites successful women across all industries with the aim of making further professional progress together.