I did something yesterday that I’ve been putting off since 2007. I went to a photography studio and had professional photos taken for my business. I know it’s something I should have done way back when. It’s something every business guru recommends. So why did it take me so long to have them done?
I’m not going to lie to you, having my picture taken isn’t my favorite thing to do. I’ve been overweight all of my life, in fact I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t watching what I ate. I’m not kidding, my first memory of dieting was somewhere around 3rd grade. Having an online business meant I didn’t have to endure the scrutiny of others when meeting in person. It kept me from wondering if my weight was standing in the way of them seeing my value as a person and more importantly, a business woman. The people that I do business with online judge me on what I do, not how I look. And isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?
So what changed? Why did I find myself posing in front of a stranger with a camera yesterday?
The realization that I wasn’t being a very good role model for young women out there. Perhaps it was Tess Holliday being signed by a major modeling company that got the ball rolling but as I looked around online I realized that although men in tech could be seen in all shapes, sizes, ages, etc. on their websites and in videos, the women who were highly visible online could all be considered attractive by media standards. I didn’t see any plus-sized women in Forbes “Most Powerful Women in Tech” slideshow, even the two that appeared a bit older were attractive and slim. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being slim and attractive, I felt like somehow the message about women in technology careers was still being somewhat skewed. Now we were saying that what the media/society accepts as pretty, fit women could become successful in tech.
But I knew differently. There were plenty of women who didn’t fit a fake media definition of attractiveness who were rocking tech careers. Maybe they sported piercings and tattoos, perhaps they have their hair pulled back into a ponytail with a child on their lap and yes, even some like me, over 50 and overweight. They were out there, but in many cases they were invisible. It made me ask why.
Then it made me examine the reason I myself only posted headshot selfies taken at the right angle to hide my double chin and laugh lines. And I didn’t like the answer I found.
I was afraid. Me, the woman who not only had created her own business from nothing but a pink slip, but who had helped others create their own as well. It didn’t matter than I had successfully helped others adopt technology or designed fabulous websites, I was still afraid I’d be judged not on what I could do but by how I looked. The realization made me angry. I was angry with myself for being afraid and I was angry that I probably had good reason to be.
My male counterparts can capture themselves on video without much thought to their appearance. As a woman, I feel I have to have makeup on, my hair done and the lighting just right. And for heaven’s sake, keep that double chin from showing! I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. So why is it we women feel we need to get our pretty on in order to be considered good enough?
I think my own attitude is part of the problem. If, as someone who has built a career in online tech, I hide behind carefully posed, cropped and ‘shopped images, then I’m not doing anything to show the real female faces of tech.
The fact that it opens the door to the possibility of criticism based on my appearance is undeniable, but I believe it’s worth the risk. So I stepped outside my comfort zone yesterday and stood in front of a brick wall while a stranger with a camera captured my image without giving me anything to hide behind. And you know what? I found I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished. Sure, I’m over 50 and overweight, but it’s who I am. And I’m a woman in tech too.