The Price of Getting Pretty: Productivity
October 20, 2010 by Legal Tease
Let’s say you just woke up. After working at the firm until midnight last night, you’re already underslept and overtired and now you have to haul your ass out of bed and get ready for another day at the firm. You either:
(A) Get up; brush your teeth; spend 10-15 minutes prepping your face, hair and bod; get dressed in the dry-clean-only version of the same basic outfit and shoes that you would wear if you were going to the park for a weekend stroll; and leave for work.
(B) Get up; brush your teeth; spend 45-75 minutes prepping your face, hair and bod; get dressed in the diametrical opposite of the outfit and shoes that you would wear if you were going to the park for a weekend stroll; and leave for work.
In other words, you’re either (A) a man or (B) already screwed before you get out the door. Because if you have two X chromosomes and work at a law firm, you’re always going to be inherently less productive than your XY counterparts by sheer virtue of the fact that you have to get ready for work every morning. Even if you couldn’t care less about your appearance.
Unconvinced? Let’s take a look at how the actual numbers shake out.
First, let’s assume that we’re talking about the average female and male lawyers here. Yes, I acknowledge that some ladies—lawyers and otherwise—treat every day like it’s just another day on the pageant circuit, complete with a daily three hours’ worth of self-tanner, hair extensions and HD leg makeup. I am not talking about these women. I’m also not talking about that rare breed of male lawyer types who tend to live exclusively in Los Angeles spend more time, money and product on their daily grooming than the typical drag queen on a two-show day. I’m talking about the average law firm drone, getting ready for work on the average weekday.
So, let’s break it down: If you’re a guy, whether you consider yourself appearance-conscious or not, you pretty much run through the following routine every morning before you head out the door:
- splash some water on your face
- shave, maybe slap on some aftershave
- comb your fingers through your hair with some water or a bit of product to tamp down any strays
- run a deodorant stick under your arms
- get dressed in some basic iteration of non-denim pants, button-down shirt and flat black or brown shoes (maybe you add a jacket, maybe a sweater; either way, not much to think about)
If you’re a woman, you pretty much run through the following routine every morning:
- splash some water on your face, followed by gentle exfoliating cleanser, toner and preventative spot treatment
- apply some combo of undereye serum, facial moisturizer, sunscreen, foundation primer, foundation, undereye concealer and a light dusting of powder
- curl your eyelashes with a cold metal squeegee prod, avoid puncturing eyelid in process, fail 40% of the time, attend to punctured eyelid
- apply basic eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara and blush (remembering to blend, blend, blend)
- brush, highlight, tweeze, trim and fill in any spare patches in your eyebrows
- spritz your hair with volumizing root spray while using a round brush and blow dryer to remove stray kinks, bumps and frizz caused by sleeping
- heat up curling iron and/or flat iron and apply to one-inch sections of hair until entire head covered and apply anti-frizz shine serum to ends of hair (or, in the alternative: style hair into twist, ponytail or other simple updo)
- locate earrings in overnight jewelry-cleaner soak and place on ears, along with matching necklace, rings, bracelets or other trinkets
- apply perfume on pulse points
- run a deodorant stick under your arms
- get dressed in a work-appropriate business casual ensemble, making sure to avoid cleavage, hemlines, fabrics styles, cuts, colors or trends that could be inappropriately distracting, whorey, casual or generally offensive to anyone working in a 2-block radius of your office building
Even if you kill a couple items above, the average female lawyer is still talking about 30 minutes minimum to look presentable enough for a day at the firm. And that time between “unconscious” and “presentable” is where the ladies take the productivity hit. That extra hour or so has to come from somewhere. If you get to work one hour later than your male coworkers, you’ll lose an hour of billable-hours productivity, not to mention the reputational loss. But if you make it up on the front end and just wake up one hour earlier, you’ll lose productivity on the sleep-and-recharge-your-brain front—and your better-rested male coworkers will have that much of an advantage over you. Either way, you’re losing literally hundreds of (potentially) billable and/or sleepable hours a year just to get out of the door in the morning in the most minimally presentable way required of your gender.
And that’s the key: If you’re a woman working in a big law firm, you are indeed required (officially or unofficially) to put in a minimum amount of not-so-minimal grooming. Not all women lawyers necessarily want to arrive for work decked out (most of us would show up wearing no makeup and yoga clothes if we could), but if we don’t, we stand out—in the wrong way. Our male counterparts just don’t have to worry about this—it takes them the same amount of time to get ready for work as it does to get ready for a date or a yoga class. In fact, they would actually have to work hard to not look put together in the morning. And that’s where the ladies lose out. To quote the inestimable Elie Mystal, “ (X) getting dressed pretty to go to work minus (Y) getting dressed to go to yoga = productive time women lose because they are women. Or X – Y = XXs getting screwed.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking (I always do!): This is idiotic. Women go through this daily grooming crap to satisfy their own warped egos. They just want to impress men at the firm, or each other. Being a successful lawyer has nothing to do with how much time you spend doing your damn hair. Hell, a woman lawyer could roll out of bed, run through the “guy” morning routine from above and be just as good of a lawyer as anyone else. And you know what? Yes, she absolutely could. She could be a great lawyer. Too bad no one would ever know, though, because she wouldn’t last long at a firm—assuming she’d even be hired in the first place, which she probably wouldn’t be.
Don’t believe me? Let’s run through a quick little scenario—and this is for the ladies out there who would never, ever, EVER spend (or admit to spending) more than six minutes getting ready in the morning, because, first of all, they’re not that superficial, thank you very much, and second of all, they know that they’re damn good lawyers, so it doesn’t matter what they look like. In other words, this is for you, Ugly Deluded Liars.
You’re a woman who’s been working at a big firm for three years. When you first started at the firm, you liked to put yourself together in a way that made you feel cute, but now, a few years later, you wear nothing but four shapeless grey outfits you keep in rotation in your closet and you stopped playing with new hair and makeup looks long ago. You barely leave your office and resent having to spend any time doing hair or makeup in the morning, but you feel that you have to, because there’s that other third-year in your department, the one who’s not particularly attractive but always seems to look so polished and well-groomed…and gets staffed on the bigger deals. You feel that you have to keep up. So, you still spend a good half hour every morning trying to look presentable, but the effort is half-assed and you just wind up losing time that you could’ve spent working or sleeping and you still look like a frumpy shell of your former self.
And really, that’s all that matters here. The effort. Whether or not you’re naturally attractive, if you look like a frumpy, ill-groomed schlub, your co-workers and clients will think less of you for it—and, conversely, will respect you more if you can pull off looking polished, no matter how overworked and underslept (and unattractive) you may be. And if you’re a woman, pulling it off is just harder—and yes, means you’re going to lose some productivity somewhere, probably when it comes to sleeping.
So, the next time a woman lawyer admits to you that she spends an hour getting ready for work every morning, or the next time you notice how fresh and polished that young associate down the hall always looks, even after she’s been on an all-nighter, instead of dismissing her as a vapid, narcissistic lunatic, maybe cut her some slack. Or better yet, fire up that curling iron. You could probably use it.
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