What you look like matters. That was the message at the Black Enterprise Woman of Power Summit session, Don’t Just Embrace Your Power, Embody It!
Harriette Cole, creator of the DREAMLEAPERS initiative, moderated the session—all about how your image can let the world know you mean business.
“The minute you walk into the room, somebody’s thinking something. Own it. Control it. You can get what you want from people without even opening your mouth,” says panelist Sheila Coates, creator of BYOB (Be Your Own Brand).
Be clear about what you want to project. Coates suggests picking two or three words that describe what you want to say: “When you decide where you want to go, it will help you decide what to look like to get there. When you understand who you are and what you represent as a person, you can align your clothes to that.”
Being confident in your look can help you be confident at work. “Part of what I wear is because it projects a certain image,” says panelist Rita Mitjans, chief diversity and social responsibility officer for ADP. “If you yourself are not confident in an idea, it is going to come through. First convince yourself that you can win. It starts with your mindset and will affect your tone, your presentation, your image.”
It also affects others’ confidence in you. If you walk into a meeting pulling at your clothes, you lose power, says Coates, because you’re thinking about how uncomfortable you are instead of what you’re saying.“When you walk into that meeting, do you look like you can land that $30 million contract?” she asks. “Wear things that empower you.”
A powerful look is especially important for black women, says panelist Avis Jones- DeWeever, founder of The Exceptional Leadership Institute for Women, because of the obstacles we face to achieving success. “We as black women have great ambition. But you have to be very intentional about letting people know that you want to move up.” And looking the part is part of that.
A last word of advice from Cole: “Make sure in the morning that you look at yourself, in a full-length mirror, head to toe, front to back—slowly.”