Something that came up with relative frequency in our survey responses was the particular challenge presented by wardrobes in the Australian summer.
With a heatwave set to hit this week, and many states still with a few days of school left before breaking up for the end of the year, it seemed timely to write about the challenges participants reported facing in trying to balance ‘professionalism’ and comfort / keeping cool.
For our international readers, many of Australia’s schools will be hitting temperatures well above 40 degrees C this week, with some remote areas anticipating temperatures closer to 50C. There are still plenty of schools that don’t have air conditioning (and won’t for 10 years) so kids are trying to learn in sweltering temperatures, and teachers and leaders are having to work in the same spaces.
There is an argument to be made about the occupational health and safety implications of this, and this is the space where the research literature tends to reside. For example, research has examined the implications of PPE / safety equipment and safety clothing while working in hot temperatures.
But this isn’t quite the same issue. The recurring issue here is related to what we have written about on this blog before – the unwritten rules about what is acceptable ‘professional’ clothing and presentation.
I did some searching to see what advice is out there and it’s just about exactly as I had expected. This one is a personal highlight – the advice for women to wear dresses that are ‘flattering’ and in ‘soft, friendly patterns’ is quite representative of the sorts of advice being given freely online.
I’m not entirely sure that this advice from Glamour magazine hits the mark – how to dress for work in the summer… perhaps in a different climate (imagine a sweltering Brisbane afternoon with this SUIT on).
Given what we’ve written in the past – that ‘professional’ clothing for women leaders is expressed as being dark and heavy trousers, suits, and stockings, we can see how this might pose some issues for the Australian summer, as noted by the participants in this study. The rules being largely unwritten then complicates issues further – what is appropriate and what isn’t? How do you decide?
Australian teachers and leaders who still have a few very hot days left – we salute you! Stay hydrated.