Slutty secretaries

Why is it that many girls feel they need to dress like slutty secretaries when presenting their posters at scientific meetings? A girl I know who normally wears jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt to the lab has a designated poster presenting outfit, which consists of a pencil skirt, high heels and a button down shirt that is supposed to show just a bit too much cleavage. No wonder you think people are looking at your boobs instead of at your name badge
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Just look around when you’re checking out the posters at SfN (or any other conference for that matter) and count the girls who are wearing their slutty secretary outfit.
You may wonder what I will wear when presenting my poster? For sure something that will match the colors in my poster. I’m thinking my green short dress (not too short, and not too much cleavage), grey leggings and grey nail polish (don’t forget to have your nail polish match your poster!) and my new boots.


Filed under outfit, poster, SfN

22 responses to “Slutty secretaries

  1. I personally like a pencil type skirt but that's bc I usually not pair it with a shirt but a “regular tshirt type and a cardigan” … It's easier to not worry about being in a nonironed shirt too 😉

    And I'm way to practical to wear too high heels (imho the dirty sec look accessoarie) but wear shoes I can run around in (<2 inch heels).

    Your outfit seems nice. Where did you buy the green dress? I've been looking for green for a long time…

  2. I got it at the GAP but that was already last season…

  3. Anonymous

    Listen, last conference I was at I about did a triple take a one persons outfit. She was straight up wearing a prom dress. Brightly colored, tight, low on the top and high on the bottom. Would have garnered a double take in any situation. I thought she must have had some lost luggage mishap or something. But then I saw her the next day in a similar dress. There's no accounting for taste I guess.

  4. I've been to a conference where a girl changed before the poster session and then again before dinner. She also had a prom-type dress (but the colors matched those on her poster!). Same person perhaps?

  5. A PROM dress?! Egad. Simple, professional outfits all the way around have got to be the way to go. It's just kind of sad that “professional” outfits for women are often still designed to be “sexy”.

  6. So there are several issues here I think. There seems to be a perception that women need to dress up at conferences, more than men do. Women are judged by our appearance more than men are. There's not a lot we can do about it.

    The key is, I think, to wear something that you are comfortable in, and that draws the type of attention to you that you want. I've made the mistake or wearing something to a conference that I wasn't comfortable in, and spent too much time fussing with the conference, which probably drew attention to what I was wearing, rather than to me. On the other hand, I also tend to wear (both to work and to conferences) “ethnic” outfits. It draws attention to the outfit, but I've become known as the woman who shows up dressed this way.

    I don't think slamming women's choice of clothing, helps anyone. If she's actually trying to dress like a slut, that's her business. Otherwise, she's probably just trying to navigate a tough situation.

  7. The term 'slutty secretary outfit' was her own actually…

    I don't think slamming women's choice of clothing, helps anyone.
    I agree, I was just wondering why people sometimes make these choices for certain outfits.

  8. I think a lot of women, at least in my field, have very few examples of “professional dress”, so certain looks tend to propagate. Also, button-down shirts sometimes decide I need to show more cleavage all by themselves, which I why I try to wear a sweater or sweater vest over them slash not wear them at all.

    Team EngineerBlogs has talked about this a few times:

  9. Anonymous

    To be fair(?), men have their own problems. Even if they do decide to at least dress semi-nice I cannot tell you how many don't manage that correctly. I've seen people give job talks in suits that were at least 2 sizes to big. It makes you look like a 12 year old wearing your dads clothes. You don't need anything expensive, just something that fits (and is clean).

    I'll get off my soapbox now…

  10. Oh don't even get me started about ill fitting pants on men. Maybe I should start a Tim Gunn-like blog about fashion in science…

  11. i'd like that. And would like to take a go at “trouser fitting in US vs Europe” and some other more obvious things… 😉

    As for the “female shirts” – I started to wear one of my shirts this morning but had forgotten that I always need a tank top underneath that one since “the last button on top is right where my boobs are” i.e. long open gash for cleavage. i HATE it.

  12. Oh, so we're bringing out the judgey on how others are performing femininity now?

    Ok, how's this one:
    I do NOT take anyone with nailpolish or heels at a conference seriously. You shouldn't wear them in the lab, why would you wear them to a conference? Would you put on the author part of your poster “My boyfriend did the experiments for me cause I'm too pretty”? No? Then don't wear things that make you look like a whorish OR prudish barbie instead of a serious scientist.

  13. I often wear nail polish in the lab. Those are the days my experiments work best!

  14. A bloke

    How about uploading some photos illustrating just how inappropriate these outfits are?

  15. 1) Many common nailpolish ingredients are carcinogenic, so to my thinking anyone who works with other carcinogens in a lab would be wise to avoid unnecessary exposure (i.e. if you work in a lab you should NEVER wear nail polish)
    2) Long nails have been demonstrated to carry pathogens- if you are wearing them in a lab setting, you're asking for contamination problems. (i.e. if you work in a lab, your nails should be as short as possible)
    3) Last time I checked “nailpolish” was sold in the “makeup” section… most lab safety regulations officially mention “no makeup in the lab”. If the lab safety people at your institution take their jobs seriously, they can and should shut down your whole lab it.
    I mean really, would you mouth pipet if there was an internet video that made it look “cute” or “sexy”??? (i.e. if you actually wear nail polish in the lab, either you're taking a stupid risk, or your lab safety inspectors are lazy)

  16. Anonymous

    Which Uni has a “no make up in the lab” rule? I've heard of no make-up at school, but never for grown ups…

  17. Honestly, the rule is usually “no applying cosmetics in the lab” (google the phrase for examples). But you can also find rules about no chipped/peeling nail polish, no long nails ( > 0.25″ past fingertip), no nail decorations (can break gloves), ect. Some of these are more chem safety, some more biosafety; since my training is microbiology moreso than anything else, I see long nails as an advertisement of MRSA.

  18. But you don't have to have long nails to wear nail polish. Also, my brain slices that I only record from for 3-4 hours don't care that much about MRSA.

  19. Anonymous

    Oops, sorry you were talking about “applying” make-up in the lab(?), well sure that could be an offence, I misunderstood… thought you were referring to just wearing some. I think our safety inspector would be punched if he went on like this.
    “Attention: Line up everyone its time for gloves off and finger inspection!!”
    To be honest though… he probably has no concept of nail polish… just thinks people have a variety of different nail colorings…

  20. I wonder if the issue is just poor fashion sense on the part of scientists? Or the fact that many of them don't care, but feel like they have to make some kind of effort to find something “dressy”?

    I liken it to the ill-fitting/ill-matching clothes on male scientists. Most don't care or wear super casual stuff day to day, so dressing up is a hassle and they don't put a ton of effort into it.

  21. Anonymous

    Why do we need rules? Why can't a scientist present a poster in a prom dress if that's what she feels good in? Why does clothing have*anything* to do with science? And, why do we women spend so much freaking time analysing each others' clothing choices? The world needs to get used to the fact that scientists come in all, shapes, sizes, races, genders, clothing styles, hairstyles, sexual orientation, political preference and species. (OK maybe not species). Just lighten up about the clothing thing!

  22. Anonymous

    I don't think this article is fair. I'm a female engineer in my mid 20s working in the oil and gas industry. I like to dress nice, whether it's at work or on my own time. I care about my appearance, so I wear dresses, skirts, high heels, makeup, nail polish, etc. Yes, I'm often mistaken for an admin, and half of the men I meet at work are surprised I'm an engineer. But once I open my mouth and talk to them on the same technical level, the original shock is over. Why do all professional females HAVE TO dress conservatively, wear flats, and no makeup to be taken seriously? Otherwise, they're “slutty”? I personally think most female engineers who wear flats, no makeup, and just pull their hair back are lazy and don't care about their appearance. The bags under your eyes are more distracting to me than some mascara and lipstick.

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