When does gray hair make sense?

I am not Christine Legard or Ann Richards or Barbara Bush so – can gray help me? Or does it hurt the likes of middle-management me with a new VP who is only 42 years old?

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Is that gray? Or silver? Or just brown? Whatever it is, there is a color in that palette that will show against whatever I might be wearing.

I told you guys about the book I read about going gray, right? Going gray : what I learned about beauty, sex, work, motherhood, authenticity, and everything else that really matters, by Anne Kreamer?

One of the things I like is she doesn’t capitalize every word of the title. That bugs me. I don’t know why. I am on a mission at work to stop Capitalizing Everything. I don’t even know why people do it. Maybe it’s because the parent company is Germany?

Or because it’s an engineering company? Mr T and I went to a presentation at the Milwaukee School of Engineering where Thomas Fehring talked about his new book, The Magnificent Machines of Milwaukee and the engineers who created them, (also not in capitals!). He mentioned that one business owner was able to recruit engineers who were inventing cool stuff by telling them they could name their products, which is something we are trying to get away from where I work because I love engineers and their great minds and what they do but their product names are not On Brand.

Where was I?

Oh. Going gray. I guess if I could patent something every year or so, it wouldn’t matter what I looked like. And I can assure you that my career has not been built on my looks. Not at all. Unless you count that I think that I look trustworthy and non-threatening? Maybe looks matter that way. I don’t have the shifty eyes my grandfather was always warning me about.

In her book, Kreamer talks about whether gray hair helps or hurts women professionally. She posited that perhaps gray would give women in politics credibility, but – nope. Gray is OK for men, but not for women.

It’s not OK for women or for men in tech.

It’s probably OK for men in the corporate world, although it seems that my company has been overtaken by yutes – it used to be that you needed to have a good 30 years behind you to be a VP at my company, but new owners and new CEO have a bunch of 30- and 40-something VPs, which is something I have never experienced before. On verra.

So gray hair might be OK for men in the corporate world. But it is not OK for women.

I am not sure what it is like at my company, as there are almost no senior women. I mean, there are a few women who are older, but they are not in executive positions. I think there are about 17 women in my local office. There is one woman on the board and two new women VPs from the new CEO. There were no women VPs before that.

So I don’t even know if it matters at my company. That is, I don’t think gray hair is the limiting factor here.

Which makes me wonder why I am bothering to color my hair. It’s not like I would ever be a VP even if I didn’t have gray hair. Why am I wasting my money?

I mean, besides being vain.

PS There is one profession where gray hair is valued for sure. My uncle just retired as a commercial airline pilot. He started going gray in his 30s, but it didn’t bother him. “When people get on the plane, they like to see a pilot with gray hair,” he said.

3 thoughts on “When does gray hair make sense?

  1. I started turning gray when I was 16. I looked like Lorne Greene by the time i was 45. I never colored my hair, but it drove my mom crazy (having a daughter with gray hair!). I am in tech, but in higher ed (which is its own little world). Not sure if it has made a difference or not..

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  2. I’ve also been grey for years – started when I was 17. I spent a number of years coloring it, but then decided I could do more important and interesting things with that time. Don’t think it’s made a difference professionally. Gets me lots of random comments, though, from people on the street, the store, etc.

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  3. In tech, there’s definitely an age bias. Other industries, I truly don’t know. I stopped coloring because I hated the process and at the time I didn’t want to look younger than I am. I reserve the right to change my mind:).

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