High Heels

The post was originally published in October 2010 on Women of HR.

I love high heels. The exhilaration of rising from 5’3 to 5’7 in a quick step. The appearance of a much slimmer & perkier lower body. The click on concrete and office lobbies that commands attention. The toe cleavage.

When I was a Human Resources Assistant, my manager always wore heels and a well-rotated collection of suits. She was also extremely professional, action-orientated and a confident public speaker,  i.e. everything I wasn’t at the time. So I quickly followed her lead and purchased three pair of heels; black, brown & nude. I didn’t instantly soak up the demeanor and skills of my manager through those pointy tipped shoes, but I noticed a difference in my performance. I implemented improvements to our staffing process, followed up with other managers and resolved employee concerns. The staff anticipated my entrance into a room by the sound of my feet and then actually listened while I spoke at the meeting. Was this new-found self-confidence due to my footwear or my experience?

After attempting to train for a marathon and developing shin splints, my heel wearing days were over. So I invested in a new line of shoe wear by purchasing one pair of black, brown & purple flats. At first, I felt deflated. I was back in the land of short people, asking for assistance to reach handbooks on high shelves and making eye-to-chin contact. I worried “Would the staff still respect some girl sporting ballet flats?” My superficial side was quite surprised when no one commented on my “real” height and my flatness made me even more efficient. Instead of concentrating on the physical act of walking, I could run through my mental to-do list or think of an idea for our employee picnic. I could easily keep pace with male coworkers and the more experienced Stiletto-rocking women while finalizing plans for new hire orientation. Yes, I could accomplish the same things at 5’3 that I could at 5’7.

I realize now that just because I want to BE like her, does not mean I need to LOOK like her. My heels did not give me the boost of confidence I needed for a professional environment, it was the example of my manager who wore them. Perhaps those lovely shoes encouraged my inner potential, but my manager gave me the skills to succeed in future environments. Accomplishments, work ethic and attitude speak louder than any pair of shoes.

So, heels or no heels? Ladies, what does wearing or not wearing heels mean to you? Gentlemen, what perceptions do you have of a woman with or without heels?

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