Social froth is thick with talk of unconscious bias in Silicon Valley. Amidst it, I was bemused to see that my last 500 Women lightning talk had inspired this Medium article from Deema Tamimi...on ponytails. (Photo credit: Swirl Ponytail Barbies by RomitaGirl67)
Every entrepreneur I know has worried about image, but asking if you should wear your hair up or down makes you feel like an idiot. It's not exactly covered by TechCrunch.
So I laughed out loud, then earnestly responded with why, in a valley swimming with complex social dynamics, a simple ponytail has impact.
First: Not everyone (male or female) needs to wear their hair back. But put it up if it’s distracting — your hair shouldn't mask facial expressions, block eye contact, or otherwise interfere with establishing trust and connection. More importantly, pin your hair back if it is remotely possible you will play with it, brush it away, or blow it back during a meeting. Nothing says “CEO” to an investor like fidgeting with your hair, earrings, etc. You don’t want us to pay attention to anything besides your pitch.
Or like your mama used to say, "keep your hands away from your face."
Second: Numerous studies show that for women, playing with hair is a common “preening” gesture to demonstrate sexual interest. Or it’s a nervous twitch. Neither screams "I'm a winning founder", and I imagine most women would be horrified to realize they sent either signal during a pitch. Body language reactions are almost impossible to change, so just remove the variable. If your hair is out of your unconscious reach, then you eliminate the risk of female-centric messaging that hurts your chance at funding.
When all is said and done, here's my advice for entrepreneurial ladies: if your hairline is high and back enough to keep your hair out of your face; if you don't fidget; or if you have gravitas, then wear your hair however the hell you like to. Otherwise, think about buying stock in Goody.