Are high-heels a prerequisite-requisite for executive success? It's such a shallow question that I hate to ask it, even though I did pose it to Paula Goldstein, chief executive of Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia, during our executive question and answer interview published in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer.
When I interview some of these executives, particularly the women, particularly the women who are my age, I think about how their paths are different than mine. Sometimes, frankly, I think, God bless them, I'm happy to be a reporter. Other times I wonder what I could have done differently to move myself higher up the corporate ladder, either here or elsewhere.
And, this isn't entirely a joke. But maybe it's the heels. I didn't even wear them on my wedding day, although I am, by the way, still married to the same man.
So, in every interview with a female CEO, I get around to the high heels question. And they all, including Goldstein, graciously answer.
Question: Do high heels matter?
Answer: Yes. Oh my gosh, I have to tell you it's so funny that you asked that question. One, female executes have a whole different set of expectations in terms of the way they dress.
Q: Tell me.
A: So when I was a social worker at this agency, I was much more of an earthy, crunchy dresser. I liked clothes but I was very comfortable in my kind of freestyle. I love your sweater for instance. I immediately admired it when you came in, and I thought, `That's me.' But when I work with my board and in order for me to transition to that executive presence with the staff here I had to change the way that I looked.
Q: So what did you do?
A: It much more suits. It's more high heels but for me personally, I mean I'm a 58-year-old woman who doesn't have great feet. So I have to find the high heels that work, but I do. I do because I feel there's something to it, and I feel that women in general, know this. I don't just feel this. I know because we talk about it, other executives. We have to think about the way we look in a way that men do not, every single day. If I'm going to meet this person, I have to think about how I'm going to look. It's unusual for me to come in completely casual.
Q: It's very interesting.
A: It's a female thing. We carry it. Some females may not buy into it, but I actually think that it's important.
Q: I've come to the same conclusion, now that I've interviewed so many female executives. I'm not an executive so I don't have to wear heels, but I've come to the conclusion that you don't have to have heel like yours. (She had high-heeled boots -- not terribly high, but not short stubby ones either). You have to at least a symbolic heel.
Q: It doesn't have to be a high-heel. It's just has to be a heel.
A: Right. These are such a compromise because I can't wear pumps, and so these shoes are so comfortable, believe it or not.
Q: So how many pairs did you buy.
A: I have two pairs of these and then I have a different pair by the same maker.
Q: Now do you feel like you can wear flats in the office?
A: Just here.
Q: Just in this room? Not even down the hall?