I thought I would touch on the topic of exposure and global leadership. Hence my question and title of this post: How much skin is enough?
I think it is fair to say that in the western world, the level of acceptable exposure for women has drastically changed over the years. The above cartoon says it all (which I found on a blog discussing women’s image and health). The level of exposure not only differ with generations but culture and religion. It is also very tightly tied to personal space. So what does that mean when you are in a leadership role? Globally? I think when in doubt, lean on the conservative side. Here are some pointers:
Certain parts of the body can be off-limits in both a personal or professional setting.
Women should be careful about exposing their arms, legs or even faces in many Muslim countries.
Wearing shorts or other types of casual clothing is not acceptable in many cultures.
The most sensitive situations apply to women in orthodox settings in the Middle East, where proper attire for women does not include shorts or short skirts.
Showing the bottom of a shoe when crossing the legs is also considered an act of disrespect in many Muslim countries as well as in Thailand.
Sometimes, a well-meaning gesture can be misinterpreted for example, touching the head of a young child in most Asian countries is not acceptable behavior.
If you are not aware of the culture of a country, or the culture of the organization, your wardrobe should air on the conservative side when meeting for the first time.
Colors are also important – in many settings you can convey a positive or negative impression because of the color you are wearing. For example , in Asia, red or white typically are worn to funerals. Purple is considered unlucky in Italy.
Now, with increased business globalization some blunders may be forgiven as we open up our doors and have a deeper understanding of other cultures. However the message here is, do your homework. Do not assume. Again, a quick check of culture can go a long way to making the first step to building that relationship.
What has been your experience? Do share. I would love to hear from you.
Now go dress for success!
- Business Leader Introductions, Do You Kiss, Bow Or Shake Hands? (williampearl.wordpress.com)
- Does Global Business Leadership Standards Exist? (williampearl.wordpress.com)
- Globalization AND Culture (socyberty.com)