The Grey Hair Factor

I was sitting in a meeting today, when we were talking about the need for an impressive barrister to help us with a tricky regulatory issue. Our solicitor talked about one potential candidate, “he’s got the right amount of grey hair”.

It reminded me of when I was consulting. Putting a a project team together for a job proposal, we would often talk about the need for a bit of grey hair to impress the client. After a while, I realised that this was a completely sexist phrase.

When you are looking for “a bit of grey hair” to add cachet to a project team or a piece of advice, theoretically, you are just looking to impress the client with the experience you can bring to bear. But in actual fact, the person that comes immediately to mind from the phrase is the experienced, 50-something man.

I used to joke about dying my hair grey so that I could get that coveted position on the project team. But the phrase isn’t really about grey hair. It’s about an idealised view of a senior executive – who is always a distinguished looking, silver-haired man.

Of course most women that age would be dying the grey out of their hair anyway.

  6 comments for “The Grey Hair Factor

  1. May 3, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I’ve never heard that phrase before–but I totally agree, it’s hard to believe they’re looking for a silver-haired woman!

  2. May 3, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    I agree with you that it’s sexist. The presumption is that a “grey hair” is a man. More flippantly, perhaps I need to learn to love my grey hairs – they are giving me gravitas.

  3. May 4, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Yeah, agree with all of the above.

    A friend of mine used the wry phrase ‘the grey bouffant of power’. He claimed it was confined to those with hairy domes; I’m not sure about that — look at Howard.

  4. May 9, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Couldn’t agree more, especially as a 45+ woman who does not dye her hair – which really makes you aware of how many middle aged women *do* dye their hair. The majority, at least in affluent circles.

  5. May 9, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    I don’t dye my hair either – and I do have a bit of grey now. At the moment it’s mainly a white streak above one temple – I like to talk about my Indira Ghandi look – but I fear that if I start going seriously grey that I would dye it all.

  6. May 12, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    Or in new media, cutting your hair short enough to hide the grey if you’re a man (unless you’re on the account management team). No one wants to see (or hire) an old creative. One of the reasons I got out. May have changed by now.

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