Perhaps it's my 5'1 stature or my love for polka dots in the workplace, but often times people don't seem to take me seriously because I look like a teenager. I am a 24-year old woman but I don't look it. I mean, I don't look like a woman at all. I don't wear heels unless I'm going on a job interview or if they're absolutely essential to a slammin' outfit, I wear pretty natural makeup, and I don't push my lady bits into push-up bras or cleavage busting tops. Considering for the times, I am pretty toned down when girls are trying to turn up.
The funny thing is, if you ask most of my lady friends they will tell you I am the most grown up of all of us. Looking professional, being ladylike and having my shit together is very important to me. But when I am in a room full of women in suits and lipstick, I tend to feel like I'm only the in the room because it's take your daughter to work day. When it's not.
And it is for this feeling of being a little, tiny shrimp, in a room full of sharks that I feel like people don't take me very seriously at work. It's not because I'm unprofessional or inappropriate in any way. It's because I look like their daughter who is probably still in high school complaining that their mom won't let them get pink highlights. It really is so unfair! The pink highlights and the ageist discrimination. It has gotten to the point where when I take charge or speak up in kind of a demanding way at work, people look really surprised. Like I wasn't or shouldn't be capable of such guts or conviction. I can see it in their eyes where they want to say "um can she talk like that? she's just a baby!"
So what's a girl to do? I happen to work in an environment where almost everyone is older than me. I have a few people in the twenty-something age group, but for the most part we're talking 40+ who don't look at me as someone who should take charge and hold responsibility like I do. It's something that I fear will hold me back in life. As odd as that sounds, I really worry about it. Because I do have a lot of potential, am a really fast learner, and a supremely hard worker (okay, I should shut up, not trying to toot my horn) but I fear that people won't be able to visually picture me in a position of authority because I look like I belong in an episode of Glee.
I know some people will say that the look has nothing to do with it, and people will give you respect and responsibility with how you carry yourself and if you demand it. And all of that is true, but we still live in a society where looks mean a lot whether that be a good or bad thing. We still judge people by how they look. We assign "appropriateness" based on people's look. You see an image and you start building an idea of that person: what their job may be, their friends, their social interactions, etc. Yes, it's judgmental but we all do it! I'm just trying to figure out how to make it work my favor without putting on a pair of heels. Because I'm telling you people, I just won't do it.