dress, jacket, suit – what’s in a name?


The first writing from the initial women and wardrobe survey has now been published. We called our book chapter Manufacturing the woman leader, with a nod here to the idea of fabrication and construction, but we didn’t try to do anything really clever with the idea of clothes themselves.

Perhaps we should have.

Amanda’s university press office covered our publication and came up with a great wardrobe oriented title – Hanger management. Their press release was picked up by a few journalists – one of whom headed her piece Suiting the part.

We are aware of how many clever and/or groan-worthy titles might be made about our project.

There’s still more to do with the word suit. Who is suited for leadership? is probably a title that we will use at some point. Such a title will allow us to write a paper about the overt and hidden selection criteria that are used to recruit and appoint people to the job. We do have some information about this and we would certainly like to collect more.

We often think about the publication that might go with a title like Leadership as straight jacket – rather than straitjacket. This title might help us to talk about leaders having to walk a straight line enforcing government policy whether they agree with it or not. Perhaps this title gives us a way to come at the kinds of restrictive expectations that seem to sit around the leader role. The straightjacket title would give us the option to talk about leaders’ autonomy, what freedoms are possible, and what aren’t. Importantly, the double meaning also provides a way to talk about the gendering and de-and re-sexualising of leadership – and what is sometimes called “heteronormativity” in the leadership and organisation literatures.

Then there’s the possibilities of dress. We think of the notion of add-dress. A paper on add-dress might talk about the career pathways to leadership, and being “called” to the job. An add-dress paper could talk quite literally about what the position is called – I had someone use the term headmistress to me just the other day, so gendered titling has not entirely vanished. Or perhaps we could use the notion of re-dress to think about the ways in which the job might be redesigned, how discrimination in recruitment and promotion might be got rid of, how past injustices in the system might be recognised.

Titles of papers are always a bit of fun. But playing with words has a serious side. Word play allows us to think about the ways in which we can come at our/your data to write something that is important about women in leadership positions.


Photo by Amanda Vick on Unsplash