It never ceases to amaze us what you can find and do online.
PhotoFeeler, for example, is a website that helps people get crowdsourced opinions about their LinkedIn profile photo helps you select an appropriate "professional" image.
Sounds great and intriguing — until you read what the founder of the site, Anne Pierce, has to say about what she's learned. In a piece titled "The Sexist Formula for Dressing Professionally That I Learned Running a Website That Crowdsources First Impressions of LinkedIn Photos," she argues that "looking professional" is a contradiction-laden assignment (e.g. "Be assertive but not too aggressive,") that doesn't register as discriminatory but is fundamentally based on unconscious gender bias.
Her user data-based conclusions, in short, are that women should follow three rules if they want to be considered "professional":
1. Copy men. She believes that women interested in looking professional should wear a suit.
2. Be feminine, but not too feminine. In other words: a little bit of color and high heels are all well and good. Not too high, though, or you could offend! And wear a skirt suit rather than a pantsuit.
3. Don't be too sexually appealing. Make sure your outfit is not too baggy — but avoid anything overly form-fitting or revealing, she notes.
In the end, these results simply contribute further to the impossible Catch-22 we already know women face, something that's summarized well in Pierce's article:
"Most women already feel they need to live up to many contradictory standards," she writes. "Be smart, but not so smart that men feel you don’t need them. Be sexy, but without seeming like you know you’re attractive or appearing attainable. Be confident, but not so confident as to appear challenging."
Considering most LinkedIn profile photos are simply headshots, we're not just ticked off but also genuinely confused by respondents' apparent ability to infer sex appeal and femininity from these photos anyway. But where there's a will (conscious or otherwise) to be sexist, we suppose there's a way.
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