Recently, I listened to a Diversity and Inclusion discussion where the panelists recounted experiences throughout life or their career where someone tried to make them feel less than or as if they didn’t belong.
One panelist discussed a theme that has informed much of her life. She talked about feeling as if she was in an invisible box for much of her life. Even as an adult in her leadership, she finds that she still puts herself in this ‘invisible box’ so that she can fit in in a white male-dominated world.
She stated when she walks into a meeting, she’s often the only woman. And if she isn’t the only woman, she is often the only woman of color. To try to blend in, she typically wears black or gray. She mentioned having an outfit that was vibrant and colorful, and a male commented on it being too bright. After that, she stopped wearing color.
She told how her sister came to visit and asked to borrow something to wear. When she looked in the closet, she asked what happened. And the speaker agreed.
She stated she loves her colors. She mentioned how wearing color is a part of her rich heritage. Another speaker added that it is part of the African American experience and noted how tribes in Africa donned bright colors that signified strength, power, royalty, prominence, and pride.
Yet, over time the female panelist has lost that part of her culture so that she can fit into this male-dominated world.
At the end of the discussion, everyone encouraged the speaker to wear her color. To be proud and stop hiding in her box.
It is a heart-wrenching story. And sadly not unique to this panelist. You can find other women in leadership roles who have felt the need to hid their true selves to fit in.
I want to urge everyone to be themselves. Don’t be afraid to show who you are. Don’t hide behind fashion. Fashion should be an expression of who you are and not a way to oppress you or suppress your uniqueness.
If you like color, wear it.
Wearing color in one of the season’s hottest trends – faux leather.
Faux Leather Tie Waist Top – Eloquii (Sold Out) Similar option here.
Gold turtleneck – Anthropologie (Sold Out) Similar option here.
Black Windowpane Pants – Target (Sold Out) Similar options here and here.