Hard Shells, Blue Suits

In Stiletto Network, one exec refers to “the hard shells, the blue suits,” while another recalls those “dorky silk ties” women used to wear. And in Chapter 1, I talk about trailblazers in the ‘80’s: “All wore Reeboks over nude hose, shoulder pads over thick skin. Life, they were told, was not a spectator sport.”

By Canyon Castator

By Canyon Castator

We all have a memory of THAT “power suit,” the one donned like armor to face the day. (And by “power suit” I do not mean the ill-advised, head-to-toe orange tweed number I wore at Goldman near the turn of the century – about which my former colleagues will remain mum and nod compliantly when I blame Y2K Fever).

I’ve always loved fashion. I relished prancing out the door in make-up and heels. Until, as a relatively junior employee, I started getting as much attention for my outfits as for my work. Arguably more. My clothes were always professional – never a “showcase of knockers and knees” – but in banking they stood out.

Really bad move on my part, but I was young….

These days I’m seeing a lot of sheaths and chic separates, as well as rockin’ kicks; they’re feminine, but not va-va-voom in a way that undermines anyone’s credibility or effectiveness. And still I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend who’s still banking. After more than 15 years on Wall Street, she decided to splurge on a few pairs of decadent-yet-office-appropriate shoes. She’d toiled in the trenches and deserved it – or so she thought.

“Who’s your new boyfriend?” one colleague inquired when she wore them to work, implying a Sugar-Daddy was bankrolling her purchases. “Someone doesn’t need a bonus,” another sniped.

Of course that’s a singular example, but the question remains: Can we as women appreciate fashion and spend time and money on clothes, yet still be taken seriously in the workplace?

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Stiletto Network on the TODAY Show!

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Stiletto Network on Rock Center!

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Stiletto Network on MSNBC’s The Cycle!

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The STILETTO NETWORK book launch was a hit!

On May 9 more than 200 women, many of whom are in the book or helped in some amazing way, (as well as some fearless men) came together for an incredible evening at Norwood Club in downtown Manhattan. I could not have felt more blessed for your support, enthusiasm, and rockin’ dance moves.

Ladies, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. xx

Thank you to our fantastic photographers, Aaron Zebrook & Liza Politi!

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I’m Too Sexy For My Book Cover

Some have hemmed and hawed over my book cover, debating whether a classic Louboutin would have done the trick (trademark, shmademark). Still others winced at my hope of luring male readers with a shapely turn of ankle. (But sexy is better than dowdy, no? And them’s some sweet sticks).

I’ve been chided countless times in the nicest of ways by women who remind me that… this networking thing? It’s really not about the shoes and clothes. And ladies, I hear you.

As a journalist and former businessperson, it took me a while to get comfortable with this. But I ended up stuffing Stiletto Network with lifestyle details because these are the things women notice. These are things I notice.

So hear me out. Before I could figure what was happening, I had a gut feeling that the world was changing in important ways. Why? Because I walked into a conference room of 50 hard-core, successful women who actually looked like women. Women with chic shoes and healthy hair. Women for whom the requisite intro was: “I love your shoes!” or “What a fabulous dress! Is that this season or last?”

Stiletto Networks emerge because ladies find fast affinities. Sure, businesswomen talk about transactions, but they also do girly things like hosting baby showers and swapping Manolos. Where men might fall back on sports, women use clothes and shoes as an icebreaker, the initial step to a more substantive relationship.

“It’s okay to compliment another woman on her dress or shoes,” Heidi Roizen says in Stiletto Network. “Just because you admire what’s happening on the outside doesn’t mean you’re not interested in what’s going on inside her head.”

Stilettos might just grease the wheels…

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We’re moving away from the corporate model. We’re coming into an era where women have the skill sets and core value systems. Being collegial, collaborative, checking your ego at the door… able to work in a non-hierarchical environment, listening, attuned to intuition. These are increasingly all characteristics of senior leaders. Women have that capacity, as mothers and sisters and preservers of the family. When we come through this period, I think we’ll find many more women at the senior level.”

Catherine Allen, CEO of the Santa Fe Group and founding CEO of the financial industry consortium BITS

Stiletto Network (Page 153)