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En Vogue: The Working Woman’s Fashion Dilemma


Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer appeared in last month’s issue of Vogue, elegantly perched on a lawn chair, decked out in the high-end couture she’s known to wear. The image elicited some sharp response from women who felt the image belittled the Silicon Valley powerhouse by dressing her up as a more of a fashionista than a C-suite celebrity.

(Photo credit: LeWeb13 / Flickr)

The famously fashion-forward Mayer is both a business titan and professional woman’s style icon. Her appearance in the fashion bible, however, reignited the discussion about whether or not fashion and beauty are to be commended or condescended in the workplace.

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Author and career consultant Dan Schwabel tells CNBC that the image sends an uppity message, regardless of gender.

“It comes off as if she’s on vacation, she’s relaxing while everyone else is doing work,” Schawbel says, noting that it seems a tad insensitive for a CEO who banned employees from working at home to pose a picture that appears to portray her relaxing in the backyard. 

Jezebel founder Anna Holmes wrote about the conversation in an article for Time magazine calls Schwabel’s analysis a stretch (this was, after all, a fashion mag) and unfair. In a discussion about Mayer’s appearance on a forum for professional women, Holmes says, “there was a nod to the inherent tensions within contemporary femaleness, an acknowledgement that women who take an active interest in fashion and beauty are to both be commended (personal grooming is indicative of self-respect) and humored (personal grooming is superficial).”

The vitriolic reaction to a stylishly done-up Mayer comes down to the general public’s discomfort with women in power, says Amanda Marcotte at Slate.

“This is probably just a problem that will work itself out over time, as people endure having to accept that one can both be female and be a person who has an important job unrelated to sexual functions,” she writes.


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Jennifer Wadsworth
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