The professional cost of not wearing makeup at the office


I have a love-hate relationship with all things beauty-related. Sometimes, I look forward to my evening skincare routine, seeing it as a meditative way to get ready for bed after a long day. Other times, I see it as a burden. When I have to attend an early-morning event, the last thing I want to do is cut into my sleeping time to have enough time to put on makeup and blow-dry my hair.

I find it important to look professional, and as much as I’d like to opt out of society’s standards of what that looks like for women, I know that doing so can cost me, in a literal sense. A 2016 study by sociologists Jaclyn S. Wong and Andrew M. Penner found that attractive individuals out-earned their peers by about 20%. When researchers started factoring in “grooming” (which for women included whether or not they wore makeup), the gap narrowed. But being considered too attractive can also hurt women. Another study, published in 2019, found that “attractive businesswomen are judged as being less truthful than less attractive women.”

It seems like an impossible dance. To be taken seriously, women must look attractive, but not so much that they veer off into the “untrustworthy” category. And when it comes to deciding how much time, effort, and money one “should” dedicate to personal grooming to maximise earning potential, the line becomes less clear.

When I tallied up my average monthly grooming expenses against my husband’s, I found that I spent about 15 times more than he did. For the purposes of this exercise, I only tallied up things that we used individually and didn’t share. My husband is a minimalist when it comes to personal grooming. His recurring expense consists of a drugstore face wash, deodorant, and shaving cream. When he does get a haircut, he rarely pays more than $20.

Given that we’d set individual budgets for those expenses, I wasn’t that surprised by the disparity. What I did find surprising, however, was just how little information is out there about how women should treat these costs in the context of their personal finance. While I rarely stray above the limit that I set for myself, I wanted to know if I was spending an appropriate amount on personal grooming for my income level. I also wanted to know if I was spending it on the right things.

Yet when I consulted personal finance websites and publications, many seemed to wave off these expenses as “nonessentials,” failing to consider the penalty that many women would pay by reducing (or cutting out) these expenses. Beauty blogs and women’s magazines—on the other hand—were helpful in suggesting cheaper alternatives, yet they also published beauty routines that seem unaffordable.

Desiree Vargas Wrigley, founder and CEO of Pearachute, an aggregator for family-friendly activities, knows the burden of having to spend extra money on makeup and clothing. When it comes to appearance in the context of raising capital, Wrigley said, “I feel like founder-market fit is something that investors are looking for.” While a male founder can pitch his expensive enterprise software start-up in jeans and T-shirt, “When it comes to women, we have to look the part of the market that we’re serving. If we’re selling designer bags, we have to be wearing designer everything,” Wrigley explains. 

Wrigley began to notice the difference between the appearance-related costs she took on—versus those of her male cofounder—when they were going through their accelerator program. “There were so many meetings where I didn’t feel like I was being taken seriously as a CEO. I feel like I had to up my appearance to command authority. I would sit in the meeting, lead the entire presentation, and every question would be directed to him. That’s when I started paying more attention. I spent a lot of money trying to look the part of the high-class CEO that they were expecting.” While she never calculated the total costs, she estimates that the difference probably tallied up to several thousand dollars a year.

Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, founder of Fiscal Femme and author of The 30-Day Money Cleanse, works with a lot of professional women and has had many conversations about how personal grooming fits into her clients’ financial lives. She isn’t a fan of a prescriptive percent-of-your-income model, saying “Some people value traveling more than where they live, so they’re not going to pay as much in rent, but they’re going to pay more [for travel]. I think the same applies to personal care and health.”  

It’s also worth noting that everyone’s relationship with makeup is different. Personally, I fluctuate between seeing it as something I reluctantly opt into and viewing it as a form of self-expression. However, there are people of all genders who choose to wear—and spend money on—makeup out of pure enjoyment.

But the conversations around these nuances aren’t happening in the personal finance space, says Gerstley. The most obvious reason, she suspects, is because it has been a space that is created (and still largely dominated) by men. “These types of conversations are not as prevalent,” she says.

Gerstley also says that money is a space riddled with shame and judgment. “There’s a lot of fear around saying the wrong thing or offending people.” To illustrate a similar example, Gerstley mentions the backlash she sometimes gets when she posts pictures of herself on vacation. “Someone will say, ‘Wow, that’s not Fiscal Femme.’ Just because I’m taking positive actions doesn’t mean I can’t spend money on things that are outside of necessities.”

When reading about beauty and personal finance online, you’ll see people argue that the expectation is a self-perpetuating one. The more women spend on grooming expenses, the more they reinforce expectations, and the more money they fork out.

For Kara Perez, founder of Bravely, a financial community for women, a way to opt out of the burden of adhering to these standards is by being a self-employed entrepreneur who works from home. “For me, personal grooming is not mandatory in my professional life, unless I’m at a conference or on TV. I’m able to opt out . . . for big chunks of time because of [my] specific lifestyle.” Perez acknowledges that she is in a privileged position, and that if she were required to go into an office, that she might feel less able to “opt out.”

For Wrigley, the grooming expectation for a female CEO goes beyond raising capital. When asked about the impact of social media on such pressures, Wrigley says that there are a lot of image-related pressures for female entrepreneurs in the consumer-centric space. “The number of questions I got about my personal Instagram following is bizarre,” says Wrigley. But at the end of the day, “you have to be positioning yourself in a way that the consumer wants.”

Perez echoes Gerstley’s sentiment that people’s reluctance to speak honestly comes from fear of saying the wrong thing but also stems from a fear of being judged. “We live in a clickbait headline universe. A lot of people don’t want to take the time to explore the nuances.” She also stresses that race plays a critical role. “It’s one thing for a white woman to say, ‘I throw in a light concealer.’ It’s another thing for a woman of colour to say, ‘Well, I need something else.’ A lot of people don’t want to get into it, because it’s really a multifaced, layered issue.” The complexities, Perez says, make it easier to categorize those expenses as a “splurge.” 

Wrigley, Gerstley, and Perez all agree that changing the narrative around the cost of personal grooming for women is to increase the diversity of voices in the personal finance space. “Historically, personal finance has always taken a white male gaze,” says Perez. As a result, the narrative tends to be two extremes—either it encourages women to fully buy into it, or it shames women for buying a $30 lipstick.

“The whole ‘Don’t wear makeup if you want to save money’ is not an option for a lot of people. It’s also demeaning. It pits this sort of ‘I’m the smart cool girl who doesn’t wear makeup’ to ‘Well, you’re the brainwashed girl who does wear makeup.’” Perez adds, “I’d love to see more nuance and a recognition that your experience might not be universal. Add a little caveat: ‘Here’s what works for me.’”

Gerstley says, “There is freedom in escaping acquisition culture a little bit,” but she acknowledges that it can be difficult to change your mindset, particularly when external pressures say otherwise. Perez and Wrigley recommend that to start, one should take an honest look at their bank statement to see what they’re really spending. “Think about the environment you’re going to be at. If you’re already at $800 a year on haircuts and pedicures, okay, that’s the point you’re starting at. From there you can say, okay, I can stretch my pedicures a little bit. You can play around with the numbers, but you have to understand [your starting point] before you can make any of those changes,” Perez says. 

She also encourages women to think about making small changes if they are passionate about changing the narrative. “If you are a woman who is higher up in a workplace, I think you probably have more flexibility and more power to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to wear flats instead of heels,’” says Perez. “I do feel very strongly that traditional Euro-centric beauty standards are harmful to many people. The more we can move away from those and discuss that with nuances, the stronger everyone’s finances—and, frankly, professional output—will be.”

Article originally appeared on fastcompany.com


How to make your online presence work for you


Not so long ago, most people didn’t have to worry about their online presence or personal brand. Unless you were a celebrity, politician, or prominent CEO or entrepreneur in a public-facing company, doing well in your career involved doing good work and making in-person connections. Applying for a job meant mailing (or physically dropping) off your résumé and cover letter.

Social media changed all that. As we’ve discovered in this week’s episode of Secrets of the Most Productive People podcast, marketing strategist and Duke University professor Dorie Clark recounted a story of when a client almost didn’t hire someone because they couldn’t find any information about the candidate online. At minimum, employers expect an updated LinkedIn profile. The more content you can create (such as a blog post), the better.

Here are three things you should consider when you’re auditing your online presence:

1. Keep everything as up-to-date as possible. This includes LinkedIn, Twitter, and your personal website if you have one. You never know when people might need your expertise, or when your dream company wants to hire someone with your skills and qualifications.
2. Make yourself accessible. You want to have some way for people to contact you, whether it’s by email, Twitter direct messages, or messages on your personal website. There’s no point showcasing the value that you can bring, only for people to struggle to get in touch with you.
3. Stay true to yourself. It’s easy in the social media age to feel like you need to present a certain image, but in a world of curated filters, anything that doesn’t come across as genuine is going to be obvious. Just be strategic about what you share.

You can find the episode on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcherSpotifyRadioPublic, or wherever you get your podcasts.

And new this season, we’re answering your questions: What’s the career question that Google can’t help you out with? In the next few episodes we’ll be tackling how to answer the most common interview questions, how to negotiate your starting salary, and more. Leave a voice mail with your question at ‪(201) 371-3278, and your question might be featured on an upcoming episode.

Article originally published on fastcompany.com.


These 5 habits are preventing you from making a behavioural change


It’s difficult to change an ingrained behavior. Even for the most productive and disciplined among us, undoing something that has become an automatic part of who we are takes more than an overnight effort. Once we’ve successfully made that change, we then have to make other adjustments to our lives to ensure that we continue to maintain it, which is often a whole other challenge in itself.

At its core, success in changing (and maintaining) a behavior rarely occurs without the introduction of some sort of system. When there isn’t the right framework in place, we face a greater likelihood of derailing our hard-earned progress. Here are some habits that we should stay away from:

Think about the last time you vowed to resist a temptation. Perhaps you didn’t want to check your phone every 15 minutes, or you were adamant about not reaching for a chocolate bar at 3 p.m. Think about how difficult it must have been not to glance at your phone when it’s within reach, or not to walk to the vending machine when your afternoon slump hits.

The research on whether we have finite or infinite willpower is inconclusive, but experts do generally agree that you can’t change (and sustain) a habit if you rely on your willpower alone. As Vivian Giang previously reported for Fast Company, the military saying “You never rise to the occasion, you only sink to the level of training” also applies to behavior change. The idea is simple—you repeat something so many times that it becomes automatic.

Think about what else you can change about your surrounding that makes it easier for you to perform this change on a daily basis. Charles Duhigg, journalist and author of The Power Of Habit, calls this your “cue.” Basically, it’s a trigger to perform that particular habit. If you don’t want to reach to a sugary treat at 3 p.m., have a box of herbal tea ready at your desk. When 3 p.m. comes around, that’s your cue to pour yourself a cup of hot water and drink that tea, instead of walking to the vending machine.

Sometimes, it’s not your process that lets you down, but the habit that you want to change in the first place. For starters, not eating chocolate to beat your afternoon slump is a harder goal than swapping chocolate for herbal tea when you reach the designated time.

Psychology professor and longtime contributor Art Markman previously wrote for Fast Company, “Your brain wants to find routines that have succeeded in the past and allow you to repeat those actions again in the future without having to think about them explicitly.” Markman explains, however, that this habit-learning system isn’t so effective when it comes to learning not to do something. That’s why Markman suggested that rather than giving up something, think about introducing something in its place. He wrote, “focus on actions you are going to take that will ultimately conflict with the behaviors you want to stop.” When your attention is on doing something new, “you give your habit system a chance to operate.”

Because we are creatures of habit, it’s natural to assume that when we do manage to adopt (and sustain) a desirable behavior, that same strategy will work when we want to make another behavior change. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the system that got you to change one behavior might not work for another.

Take Rod Favaron, CEO of social media technology company Spreadfast. As Stephanie Vozza previously wrote for Fast Company, Favaron became accustomed to relying on his gut when it comes to decision-making. This served him well at the early stages of his company, yet hindered his company’s growth in the later stages. He needed to consider metrics and data, rather than letting his instinct override everything.

For example, if you want to stop checking your email first thing in the morning, you might decide to substitute another activity in its place. But if you want to stop your after-work Netflix binge, simply deciding you will go for a run might not be as effective. You might need to introduce another reinforcement, such as meeting a friend and booking an exercise class together.

Of course, even the best-laid plans fail sometimes. You might have stuck to your screen-free nighttime routine for five days, and then a big project lands on your desk and you found yourself in bed with your laptop before you go to sleep. Or you meal-prepped on Sundays and stuck to eating healthy dinners at home, but by Friday you found yourself so exhausted and opted to order greasy takeout.

Life happens. As contributor Suzan Bond previously wrote for Fast Company, even if your behavior change is small, “every single day” can prove pretty inflexible, and at some point your streak probably will founder, even if just for a day.” The perfectionist in you might be screaming to abandon your goals altogether, but try to see it in the bigger picture. Just because you might have temporarily veered off course doesn’t mean you can’t start fresh the next day.

Speaking of slipups, here’s another habit that many perfectionists tend to fall into when they try to establish a behavior change. They focus too much on the big goal and don’t take the time to celebrate the small progress they made in the process.

Your brain responds to rewards. As Jane Porter previously wrote, “the basal ganglia, the brain region linked to our performance of habits, is most active at the beginning of a behavior, when the habit is cued, and at the end, when it’s rewarded.” Say your goal is to run five miles three times a week, and this week you ran one mile on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Rather than focusing on how far you’ve gone toward your goal, think about how you can reward yourself for the progress you’ve made. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive; it can be something as simple as making your favorite smoothie after your run. As Porter wrote, “Whatever your reward, it has to be more than just the activity itself to get you going.”

Anisa is the assistant editor for Fast Company’s Work Life section. She covers everything from productivity to the future of work. 

Article orginally appeared on fastcompany.com