During a recent investors event in NYC, the CEO of healthcare startup Kanteron Systems, Jorge Cortell decided to call out a group of women he’d spotted at the event who were wearing heels, thus creating a brand new type of shaming–stiletto shaming. Then he offered up this “creepshot” with the hashtag #BrainsNotRequired.
According to Jorge, high heels are just plain awful–from affecting your health to affecting your IQ, heels need not exist in the corporate world. What Jorge doesn’t seem to understand is that it’s not up to him to police what business women can wear. What he also doesn’t know is the heels make a woman feel powerful. Our legs are longer, our stride is sexier and our posture is more poised. All of these things add up to create a higher level of self-confidence.
Some of the most powerful women I know wear nothing but heels in the workplace. While I’m not the biggest fan of teetering on heels (mostly because I have a hard time walking in them), I can admit that when I complete my outfit with a pair of heels, I feel more confident.
Many people who saw the tweet immediately called Jorge out for being sexist. Jorge’s defense was that heels=dumb.
While Jorge is certainly entitled to his opinion, I think it’s ignorant to assume that women who wear heels aren’t smart or deserving to share space with venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. According to The Atlantic, the issue here is their place at a tech demo—an event that finds participants rewarded, ostensibly, on the strength of their ideas and execution, rather than their style. Jorge took it upon himself to focus on the style and stereotype said style in a way thatwas completely one-sided and pig-headed.
We all know the tech industry is a boy’s club, but Jorge is shining a light on similarities in the tech world. Former SendGrid Developer Evangelist, Adria Richards was let go from her techie job because she decided to speak up against fellow developers who were sitting behind her at PyCon, making crude jokes about “big dongles.” Jorge’s comments haven’t gotten him nor anyone else fired, but they have perpetuated a theme that seems to be on-going in business–women being judged on a completely different and unfair standard than men.
Men get to do as they please, no matter what. No one says anything when Facebook co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg shows up to million dollar meetings wearing a hoodie and jeans, but if a woman shows up to a conference in sky-high heels she deserves to be the subject of social media ridicule by a chauvinistic pig. And then someone like Adria loses her job when she’s only trying to shine light on the misogyny in the tech/business world using social media.
And here’s the double standard. Imagine a woman like Ursula Burns choosing to wear something as simple as sneakers, a T-shirt and jeans all while trying to be accepted as a strong business woman. You can’t see it, right? That’s because women are held at higher standard when it comes to our image and our success.
It’s not like we’ve never seen successful business women before. Women like Marissa Mayer, Oprah and Sheryl Sandberg have all made big names for themselves in business and during many of their most powerful moments, have worn heels.
Would Jorge have been less offended if the woman in the photo was wearing a suit? Or a pair of Keds? What does Jorge expect powerful women to look like? Rocking flats, flip flops and such? Perhaps we need to add another element to the “having it all” talk–to heel or not to heel?