Silicon Valley CEO Eileen Carey has revealed that she dyes her blonde hair brown and swaps contact lenses for glasses in order to be taken seriously as a woman working in tech.
Carey, whose company Glassworks provides companies with software to engage a more diverse workforce, told the BBC that dyeing her hair and ditching blow dries and manicures helps her better engage with the majority male investors in her start-up. In doing so, she was acting on the advice of a woman working within the same sphere.
‘The first time I dyed my hair was actually due to advice I was given by a woman in venture capital,’ she revealed. ‘I was told for this raise [of funds], that it would be to my benefit to dye my hair brown because there was a stronger pattern recognition of brunette women CEOs.’ In other words, the male investors would feel more comfortable with a situation they’re used to (ie. being faced with a brown-haired woman) than with an unfamiliar one (ie. the prospect of a blonde-haired woman heading up a company) and would thus be more likely to take a risk and invest. This is despite the fact that a recent study by the University of British Columbia found blonde women to be more likely to become the CEO of a company.
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‘Being a brunette helps me to look a bit older and I needed that, I felt, in order to be taken seriously,’ Carey added, alluding to the fact that her blonde hair had previously drawn unfavourable comparisons with Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of controversial start-up Theranos (who, incidentally, is set to be played by Jennifer Lawrence in a forthcoming biopic).
Eileen Carey with blonde hair
Silicon Valley is, of course, known for its boys’ club atmosphere, where women are often side-lined from high-powered roles or paid significantly less than similarly qualified male colleagues (see the fallout from the leaked Google memo earlier this summer for the depressing proof). There is also a widespread problem of sexual harassment.
‘For me to be successful in this [tech] space, I’d like to draw as little attention as possible, especially in any sort of sexual way,’ Carey told the BBC. ‘I want to be seen as a business leader and not as a sexual object. Those lines are still crossed very often in this space. There’s a problem in our industry, period, around sexual harassment.’