Suit of Power

I attended a public meeting where community, business and neighborhood leaders gathered to discuss transportation issues in Tennessee. As a consultant for one of our transportation projects, I was there to assist and provide advice as needed. I was in my usual business attire: black shoes, black dress, black & white business jacket and a string of pearls. This is nothing out-of-the-ordinary for me.

As people congregated to enter the presentation hall, a young lady, who I didn’t know, approached me and stated loudly: ‘You must be married to a CEO of a major corporation.’ I looked a bit bewildered and stated ‘excuse me?’ as I honestly wasn’t sure what she meant. And she said ‘Oh, you are looking so sharp that you must be married to a CEO of a major corporation. You have that look.”

Well – I took it as a complement that I was properly dressed for my business needs because I can dress pretty frumpy at times. Being that I work more than I play, it much easier for me to ‘dress up’ than it is to ‘dress down’.

But the young lady’s comment is also why I was saddened by her remarks. She didn’t perceive my attire to be attributed to me being a CEO of a company, which I am. And I also had to laugh (on the inside) because my husband is the casual dresser in our house. He is the one who wears shorts (much to my chagrin) to church on Sunday. Plus, he is also a CEO of a company.

So what is my point? I guess I want other women (and men) to see women as CEOs and leaders and not to assume only men are the CEOs of major corporations and in leadership capacities.

I was pleased that the young lady made the statement because — I will wear that black & white jacket again and I will probably wear it more often than I normally do. She also reinforced to me that I wore the right attire to work yesterday as I was there to serve my clients, my job and the people in the community…which she happens to be one of them.

–by Deborah Varallo