Sign Up for TOS News

Deborah Bronk

Professional dress – does anything go?

Hello TOS members! As we hello to spring in beautiful Maine and I have been pondering changes in social norms and asking…

What is professional dress today?

In 1986 when I entered grad school, there seemed to be clear professional norms. Suit jackets were not uncommon for men giving a talk. At the very least, most men wore a tie. When I gave my first talk, I dressed up in a skirt, panty hose, and high heels. I felt it was expected. Today it is not so clear. That is probably a good thing.

I feel confident saying there is no consensus on what constitutes professional dress and that opinions vary widely, often by generation. In that vacuum there can be a lot of angst on the part of early career researchers and graduate students wondering how to navigate conferences, public presentations and job interviews. This is especially true of women where the range of options tends to be larger.

This vacuum can also leave more senior scientists, who can have considerable power in making hiring and other career decisions, having expectations that are not consistent with the, often conflicting, messages that more junior scientists have received.

I have no answers but do encourage scientists early in their career to consider their audience when deciding what to wear and then try to balance that with being true to themselves. I also make a plea to my more senior colleagues that when interviewing candidates, focus on their research and their potential and avoid thinking—“when I was interviewing…”

I’ll end with something I try to keep in mind. Clothes are a way to express our individually, our culture, and our beliefs. What we choose to wear can also depend on our biases, insecurities, gender expectations, and economic limitations. I argue that for a field where creativity is so critical to pushing the envelope, the fewer professional norms that limit personal expression—the better!

I’m here to serve, so please reach out to me at [email protected] if you have any concerns or ideas of how TOS can better serve its members and the work they do.



It’s not too late to submit an abstract! The link to the abstract submission system is provided upon completion of the registration process. Guidance on preparing your abstract and abstract evaluation is provided here.

Questions? Contact Jenny Ramarui.



Twenty Years of GEOTRACES: An International Study of the Marine Biogeochemical Cycles of Trace Elements and Isotopes

Peruse the early online releases from this in progress special issue. Check back for additional postings.


Is the Atlantic Overturning Circulation Approaching a Tipping Point?
By S. Rahmstorf

This article explores the Atlantic branch of the global overturning circulation, a major player in past and quite likely future climate change.…

Sign Up for TOS News

© 2024 The Oceanography Society
1 Research Court, Suite 450-117, Rockville, MD, 20850, USA | Phone: (1) 301-251-7708 | [email protected] | Privacy Policy

Translate »