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100 Women: ‘I dye my hair brown to be taken more seriously at work’

A Silicon Valley CEO reveals her secret to getting ahead in business - dyeing her blonde hair brown, and ditching her heels and contact lenses.
Eileen Carey is a successful CEO, in her early 30s, with glasses and brown hair.
But she didn't always look the way she does now.
"The first time I dyed my hair was actually due to advice I was given by a woman in venture capital," she says.
Carey was told that the investors she was pitching to would feel more comfortable dealing with a brunette, rather than a blonde woman.
"I was told for this raise [of funds], that it would be to my benefit to dye my hair brown because there was a stronger pattern recognition of brunette women CEOs," she explains.
Pattern recognition is a theory which suggests people look for familiar experiences - or people - which in turn can make them feel more comfortable with the perceived risks they are taking.
When she had blonde hair, Eileen says she was likened to Elizabeth Holmes, whose company Theranos has been through a lot of controversy.
"Being a brunette helps me to look a bit older and I needed that, I felt, in order to be taken seriously," Carey says.
In interviewing candidates for roles at her startup, Glassbreakers, which provides companies with software aimed at attracting and empowering a diverse workforce, she's encountered other blonde women who have also dyed their hair brown.
"We discussed that there's the fetishisation of blondes," says Carey.
"People are more likely to hit on me in a bar if I'm blonde. There's just that issue in general.
"For me to be successful in this [tech industry] space, I'd like to draw as little attention as possible, especially in any sort of sexual way."
It's not just hair colour either. Carey has swapped her contact lenses for glasses and says she wears loose-fitting "androgynous" clothes to work.
She says, in a male-dominated working environment, her old look made it more likely she would be flirted with.

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