Women and appearance: Is the glass ceiling really a mirror?



I recently had the great pleasure of getting married. In the run up to this event I spent more time in the beauty parlour than the rest of my life put together..

According to the beautician, I am the wrong colour and the wrong shape. Every hair on my body is the wrong shape, the wrong colour, in the wrong place or otherwise in need of correction. I had no idea what a Brazilian was, nor why an Englishwoman might want one. My nails are the wrong shape and need colouring and so it goes on.

Do you make up on the train or in the car?

I struggled to fit my business and family life in around all the time it took. I have often wondered what the ‘goldfish’ women are doing on the train in the morning as they pull strange faces and put on their makeup. How in the interests of looking glamorous to people at work, are they are willing to look so bizarre in public?

Now I see that a demanding timetable and makeup may necessitate such public display – at least for those who want to get up later in the morning. I had a colleague years ago who used to get up every day an hour earlier in order to do her hair and make up. She told me she couldn’t face the world without make-up. Even powerful women such as Hillary Clinton can be criticised for not wearing make-up.


I found myself wondering whether the glass ceiling is really a glass mirror. Why does the question of women and appearance dominate? There are only so many hours in the day for each of us. If we are convinced we are only valued for how we look and focus our efforts entirely on our appearance it will leave less time for other things – from a  boardroom coup to a lie in! When do we see articles about whether men have serious hair?

I am not a model or a film star but a businesswoman . It was really lovely to be so enhanced for one day and I am grateful to the patient beautician who took on the task. But in my day job, I am a businesswoman. I need to look organised but I don’t need to be glamorous, covered in make-up or to spend hours on my hair and nails. Luckily I am not engaged in work where I am judged on how glamorous I am. My wrinkles remain for all to see.

If you see me with my hair sticking up, just nudge me to comb it as I fly past.

Author: Annabel Kaye

Post originally a guest post for 3Plus International


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