Sex sells – but is it appropriate for selling female corporate work attire?
Not too long ago a caricature image of women in the corporate world tended to be of the pretty secretary who accessorised the male boss’s office and/or sex life. Things have come a long way since then but the boy old sexist perceptions still seem to pop up in the oddest places. This billboard by Dilly’s – who sell smart corporate attire for women – is one insane example of that.
My peeve is that the image over emphasises the sexual element. Specifically its the pose that’s the-not the cloths. But when you are whizzing by in a chariot (like I was when I took this pic on a cloudy day) the primary impression is of a sexually themed ad. Its not about the professionalism or confidence or intelligence – factors that are supposed to be the reasons why women (or anyone for that matter) succeed in the corporate world.
Companies (at least the big ones) these days take a fair amount of effort to attract and retain people without a gender bias. The underlying basis for all this effort is the notion that people are hired and promoted for their skills, abilities and performance on the job – not because they are sexually attractive. Note that I’m NOT referring to industries such as sex work (including pornography) and modelling.
Sexual harassment and/or relations in the workplace is a nightmare of any Human Resource manger. Despite our Victorian prudishness to talk about it sexual harassment remains a problem in Sri Lanka as in any country.
In the face of all this a brand like Dilly’s should have known better than to depict their product (and consequently the image of customers) in an overtly sexual way. Its the sort of imagery that depicts women in the caricature of the type who climbs the corporate ladder via the (male) boss’s bed. I think that’s rather disrespectful.
Understandably women (or men) for that matter want to look good in their cloths at work or elsewhere. But marketing work attire needs to be extra sensitive about how the “sexiness” factor is projected.
Everyone makes mistakes and I’m not assuming or even claiming that Dilly’s actually view their customers in the way depicted on the billboard. I think their stuff looks quite professional and classy. Exactly the thing for formal high end westernised workplace. Perhaps they’ll use one of the better images from their other bill boards like the one near the national archives department.
Mrs Cerno, who doesn’t quite realise what a hotie she is (she’s not taking my word for it), tends to wear rather subdued attire to her place of toil. Perhaps that’s a good thing or she’d wreck the productivity of her colleagues. I was plotting on surprising her with something from Dilly’s. But after seeing this bill board and another like it near the British Council I’m not so sure.
As for my purchasing choices I’ll have to consult the Mrs on this one. Shopping for work attire (specifically female work attire) for one’s spousal unit is trickier than I ever thought (clearly a topic for another post). Cloths, corporate culture and the gender thing is quite a complicated mix. I have the above Dilly’s billboard to thank for reminding me. So much for surprises.