The Price of Getting Pretty: Productivity

October 20, 2010 by  

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.

An excerpt of this essay is also being published on everyone’s favorite legal tabloid, Above the Law.  Make sure to check it out here!

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21 Responses to “The Price of Getting Pretty: Productivity”

  1. SLS on October 20th, 2010 10:18 am

    If you have naturally curly hair, add at least 15 mins to these tallies. (And maybe subtract that time if you have perfectly straight hair, I suppose.)

  2. E on October 20th, 2010 11:48 am

    At a moot court competition, a sitting NY State judge told one of the female contestants to “get a tan” as a constructive comment.

  3. Will on October 20th, 2010 12:30 pm

    Only one fallacy here. If the babe were NATURALLY good looking (without a pound of make-up), she could do what most men do and get away with it, because she was naturally good looking.

    I was lucky enough to date such a dame in law school (a natural 9; 10 after 3 beers), and she’s still able to pull it off now.

    Unfortunately, most women lawyers are the opposite, and need virtually every free waking moment to look presentable (to move from 2 to 5 on the ten scale), especially so a man has 3 drinks.

    Such is unfortunate, but true

  4. Truth in Beauty on October 20th, 2010 12:39 pm

    As a former make-up artist for print work, let me assure Will and anyone else who thinks that “naturally” good looking means you wake up, roll out of bed and don’t need a drop of work, NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH.

    While some women certainly have beautiful features, bone structure, etc., every one (every. single. woman.) needs make-up to bring them out.

    Sorry to break it to you, Will, but your little “9” girlfriend from law school (sure, btw) probably took more time to get her “natural” look than half the “dames” who were less subtle with their results.

  5. um on October 20th, 2010 1:06 pm

    First, you forgot showering. No matter what, if you don’t shower — even if you’re “put together” — you will be shunned and not staffed on deals.

    Second, men essentially wear a uniform. You are absolutely correct. But, why can’t women? Why not go out and buy yourself 3-4-5 pant suits or slack/jacket combos and a couple dozen blouses/shirts that can be interchanged amongst those combos. You might even get really crazy by throwing in a skirt (is that right? if its just the bottom its a skirt . . . right?) or two. Then, if you really want to save time HEM ALL YOUR PANTS AT THE SAME LENGTH AND ONLY BUY ONE HEIGHT OF HEELS (or wear flats). I have now saved you time getting ready and reduced it to the same time as men, with the exception of choosing between your gold and silver jewelry — which, let’s face it, has really been chosen for you by your choice of outfit.

    Third, admittedly, women take longer in the clean-up stage then men. Learn to go without. If your hair is naturally curly, then wear your hair curly (or get that japanese straightening treatment). If your hair is straight, wear it straight — or get a damn perm (do people still do this?). My hair is curly. You don’t see me trying to straighten my 3/4- 1 inch of hair, do you? No, I got a haircut that works for me without ANY maintenance (i don’t consider running my hands through my hair with product for 5 seconds maintenance).

    Finally, this isn’t rocket science. You can be cute and put together with a minimum of fuss if you plan ahead when purchasing your wardrobe. Buy things in like colors, or that go together. When you find a shirt you like — be a man! — buy it in every color available that looks good with your complexion. Find 4 pairs of shoes that FEEL GOOD and look good (two black, two brown — if you want to branch out into additional colors, feel free, but make sure they are neutral enough to go with half of your new simpler wardrobe).

    And your make-up should also be like a uniform. Same thing every day. It should be by rote, and you should be able to do it in just a couple of minutes. If i have to shave my face, carefully every morning, and moisturize and do all of that, you should be able to throw on some foundation, blush, eyeliner and lipstick.

  6. um on October 20th, 2010 1:10 pm

    Oh — and stop looking in the mirror and asking yourself “does this outfit make me look fat?” NO, it doesn’t. You look fat because you ate that ice cream and those cookies last night. the outfit isn’t going to help that — and you should have bought a wardrobe that was flattering with your body-type anyway

  7. um is an idiot on October 20th, 2010 1:33 pm

    Thank you for writing this!

  8. Lila on October 20th, 2010 1:38 pm

    Um! I think I have a crush on you!

  9. been sayin' this for years on October 20th, 2010 6:50 pm

    so um.. yeah, completely agree, obviously.

    but, BUT.. what are we going to do about it?

    because yay, you said this, but there are more people out there who call women attorneys stupid whores for wearing open-toed shoes, or god forbid, a pant suit to court. often times, it’s other women doing the name calling (aherm.. corporette comments much?)

    im clerking and i have to say ive been pushing the dress code. hell, the other day i wore red (distressed) patent leather shoes to court. to shocking results! my judge didn’t fall off the bench. hell, he didn’t notice. i conferred with litigants, they didn’t respect me less. i did some research, and surprisingly, my brain didn’t fall out of my head when i put these shoes on in the morning and i was able to complete my work to the same standard of quality as usual.

    in fact, the only reason I was ever afraid to wear them was because I was told by various blogs, and female judge dresscode panels not to.

    so, hi, everyone. how about we start by NOT talking about the Rules™ anymore.

  10. Becks on October 20th, 2010 7:10 pm

    Um, what?

    I went to every firm interview with air-dried hair without any product in it, mascara (but I don’t curl my lashes), deodorant, and face lotion. No blush, eyeshadow, eye serums, jewelry, foundation, filled-in eyebrows, or any of that.

    Maybe since I didn’t create any expectation of being a blown-dry, make-up slathered associate, no one will be surprised when that doesn’t happen.

  11. also on October 20th, 2010 7:32 pm

    Second the curly hair comment. And, btw, “wearing it curly” is obviously the fastest route. Now, try to imagine a curl that has been pressed flat by sleeping on it. Ok now imagine those flat curls jutting in all directions. Ok, now imagine little frizz pieces sticking out from each of those flat curls due to friction during sleep. Yeah, it’s Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman once its under control. But I lose 40 minutes every morning on this shit. Even when you pull it back it takes some time and skill to deal with curly stray hairs (and you eventually get the reputation for being “cold” with your hair in gelled-back buns all the time).

  12. Guest on October 20th, 2010 8:37 pm

    Seriously, um said pretty much everything. Woe is woman and all that, but you’re a) underestimating the amount of time men need to get read and b) unnecessarily handicapping yourself.

    Honestly: getting dressed in the morning need not be that hard. For anyone.

  13. Guest on October 20th, 2010 11:48 pm

    Here’s a tip… leave NYC and move to San Francisco where no one gives a shit. They’re mostly just relieved when you don’t show up stoned.

  14. Anonymous on October 21st, 2010 6:44 am

    I have one beef with SF. Women don’t try to look good b/c most of the men are interested in the other men’s asses, not yours.

    There, it’s the guys who spend hours primping up and waxing their rear ends to impress the other gay dudes. They could not care less about the women, as they don’t have the right parts.

    If women want to look good, fine, but just don’t eat so much like pigs and then expect your asses to look good. A huge ass is not attractive, no matter how many hours you spend on your face.

  15. overstated on October 23rd, 2010 7:35 am

    I agree with you that there’s some additional time to looking basically presentable as a woman, but you WAY overstate it.

    Here are some hints to cut down your time:

    — don’t exfoliate every day (not necessary, generally too harsh anyway)
    — use a tinted moisturizer with SPF included (1 step!)
    — cut down your makeup routine — do you really need more than blush, mascara and a swipe of a neutral lip color?
    — as the above poster says, go to a hairstylist and get a cut that looks good if air dried with minimal to no product — I have a cut like this and I have wavy, coarse hair so I’m not naturally gifted with easy to manage straight hair
    — one evening when you have time, pull together 4 or 5 go-to outfits for days that you don’t have the time/energy to put one together in the morning
    — get some classic jewelry that goes with everything (studs, classic gold bangle, etc)

    This should move you to a 15- 20 minute minimum to look presentable. Pick days that are less busy to do the ongoing maintenance stuff like eyebrows or play with new outfits/jewelry/hair styles. That’s how I do it and I’ve lasted over 5 years with good work. That’s how my friend who just made partner did it, too.

  16. Larry on October 23rd, 2010 11:08 am

    All I know is that women who date me always make me wait while they fix themselves up. I do not date big fat horses. So, I suppose it’s worth the time, because I do have to look at them when I am eating dinner, and it’s better that they not look unappealing. Afterwards it does not matter.

    If I was just interested in having sex, I would tell them not to bother because I am not focused on their face at all, just their private parts which look for the most part very similar when I am getting busy.

  17. Anonymous on October 23rd, 2010 11:12 am

    Getting busy having sex. Sorry.

  18. Anonymous on October 31st, 2010 9:05 pm

    Larry, I always remember what my dad told me when he told me the facts of life:

    “Girls who wear glasses, usually have superfat asses.”

  19. Anonymous on November 4th, 2010 6:39 am

    Let’s get some fresh material, girls:

    in the meantime::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Three women die together in an accident and go to heaven. When they get there, St. Peter says, “We only have one rule here in heaven: don’t step on the ducks!”

    So they enter heaven, and sure enough, there are ducks all over the place. It is almost impossible not to step on a duck, and although they try their best to avoid them, the first woman accidentally steps on one.

    Along comes St. Peter with the ugliest man she ever saw.

    St. Peter chains them together and says, “Your punishment for stepping on a duck is to spend eternity chained to this ugly man!” The next day, the second woman steps accidentally on a duck and along comes St. Peter, who doesn’t miss a thing. With him is another extremely ugly man. He chains them together with the same admonishment as for the first woman.

    The third woman has observed all this and, not wanting to be chained for all eternity to an ugly man, is very, VERY careful where she steps.

    She manages to go months without stepping on any ducks, but one day St. Peter comes up to her with the most handsome man she has ever laid eyes on … very tall, long eyelashes, muscular, and thin. St. Peter chains them together without saying a word.

    The happy woman says, “I wonder what I did to deserve being chained to you for all of eternity?”

    The guy says, “I don’t know about you, but I stepped on a duck!”

  20. Snively Whiplash on November 7th, 2010 4:51 am

    Hello BFW. I see you have a shiny new site 🙂

  21. Dustin on December 7th, 2010 12:41 pm

    Haha! This is great!

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