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Hillary Heels

By Shirley Zinn and Sherideen Meyer – 

It’s wonderful being a woman! As I pointed out in my book “Swimming Upstream”, I love the concept of stilettos in the Board Room. What truly amazes me is how critical we (men and women) are about the “pant-suit” or “kitty” heels, or the “multi-coloured flats”, or some sort of snide remark about what Hillary was wearing on her campaign. When the serious and substantive focus of the engagement was on complex economic policy or race relations, people are pre-occupied with scrutiny of suits and shoes.

A Papermag article, begs the question, “why does Clinton — a 69-year-old Secretary of State who holds the historic honor of being the first woman nominated to nab a major party ticket nomination — needs the height of her heels questioned”. However, despite the height of her heels, at the height of her career, Hillary has inspired millions of girls and women all over the world that it is ok to run towards your dreams as a woman. It is ok to run for presidency even if you lose to a sexist, racist misogynist.

Is the obsession about the fickle heels that are either too high or too low, or age inappropriate, or stamina-sapping, or is the real issue that she (as many women in the boardroom) has a truly great vision, is savvy and qualified, and is overwhelmingly competent at what she does? While she is battling with the highest and hardest glass ceiling (Forbes, Nov 2016), most are worried about the triviality of what she is wearing and whether she has lost her femininity.

This is a strategy to detract attention from women who display a deep passion for building a great nation and the difference that women can bring to the leadership of nations and corporations. It detracts from the notion that women can  actually lead and do it well by being authentic and by simply being the very best versions of who we truly are.

Shall we discuss what it means to be feminine? Can we reconstruct this notion that femininity has to do with shoes and what you wear as a woman? Let’s just discard the thought that femininity has anything to do with heels. When Hillary and her stylist decided that she would wear flats to offend every woman who wears heels day in and day out, in order to impress her bosses and colleagues for reasons only she would know why, together they made a decision for comfort and steadiness. In the words of the late Maya Angelou:

 

I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman

Phenomenally.

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Prof Shirley Zinn is currently the Group Head of Human Resources at Woolworths Holdings Limited. Prior to this, she was the Head of Human Resources of Standard Bank South Africa and Deputy Global Head of Human Resources for the Standard Bank Group. She also registered her own company: Shirley Zinn Consulting that provides consulting and advisory services in HR, Transformation, Leadership and Education.

zinn@gmail.com

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