As I sit here in my home office in a sweat suit and sneakers having a conference call with people across three time zones, I am reminded about just how far women have come in the working world. While both opportunities for women and technology have changed radically during my lifetime, what I am reminded of today is the evolution of how business women dress for work.
As the senior member of our company, my work history goes back much further than most of my colleagues to the early 1970s. My first job out of college was teaching math at a junior high school outside of Philadelphia. The school district was pretty progressive and used some of the latest tools and techniques. I was actually hired because of my training in â€œNew Mathâ€ which was the latest rage at the time. It was a great first job!
The dress code for teachers, however, was pretty strict. The guys all wore ties and the women wore dresses or skirts. Having gone through college during the Vietnam protest days, I was a bit of a rebel and was tempted to push back a bit on this practice. (In college, we were not allowed to go â€œdowntownâ€ in pants. We had to wear a skirt.) In the 1970s, pant suits were just becoming the rage. After much discussion in the teachersâ€™ lounge and some careful shopping, I decided to take a chance. I appeared one Monday in a navy blue polyester pants suite with a white collar â€“ very smart! There was quite a buzz. Lots of other teachers (and some of the students) were waiting to see what would happen. I made it to lunch time with no reprimand. I was walking to the lunch room when I was approached by the principal. This was it! But to my surprise this was his comment: â€œIf all I had to worry about was women teachers wearing pants my job would be very easy. I think you look fine and I have absolutely no problem with what you are wearing!â€
Needless to say, many of the other women teachers quickly followed my lead. So from a blue polyester pant to a blue sweat suit â€“ we have come a long way baby!