Dyeing Your Hair Is The Latest Workplace Concern

Someone wrote into the career blog Corporette asking for advice on how to look older — a common refrain for young women. But this conversation went off in an interesting direction: to dye or not to dye.

It's a sad reality that young women have a hard time being taken seriously at times: employers still often reflexively take youth or femininity as signs that a woman is somehow less competent; despite experience and a strong resume, the 31-year-old letter-writer in question is actually told that "I looked too young to trust with bet-the-company matters." And she describes her interview look.

I might look 25. I need a power look. I have great skin because I haven't had a tan in 16 years, and I wear there-but-light makeup. I'm tall and slim, and I have light mousy brown, layered hair that is bra-length in back. I usually wear glasses, but not to interviews. My interview outfit is a lightweight black wool pantsuit with a little feminine detail, oxford pumps, tiny hoops, my wedding band, and a semi-statement necklace. I'm willing to cut or dye my hair, but not to have a bad haircut. Please help me look older.

I'd have said wear the glasses — it's a big part of why I started doing so — but the advice is more focused on behavior; she's advised to lower her voice, keep her body language authoritative and speak with deliberation and conviction. The commenters, however, take things in another direction after one suggests she should dye her hair. "No one ever sees a woman in a powerful position with the mousy light brown hair color," she suggests, and while several people dispute this, a surprising number agree. "I can see the point that if someone has just past the shoulders, "mousy brown" hair it's not helping to make them look commanding and maybe some highlights & a more structured haircut would make them look more confident/professional," says one AIMS. And "fair or not, very few women over age 22 who have that natural mousy brown color keep it...So if you're already concerned about looking young, having a mousy hair color probably isn't helping."

This was honestly something that had never occurred to me, and given the expense of upkeep — not to mention the arbitrary standard of beauty implied — "unfair" is putting it mildly. But in your opinion, does this indeed make someone look older, more "polished?" And if so, purely because of the expense and maintenance implied? Either way, I think we can agree that a guy of the same age would be given very different advice...and probably discouraged from the partial foils several commenters suggest here.

Looking Young - Or Acting Young? [Corporette]