Fashion Advice at the DIA: ‘Makeup Makes You More Attractive’

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February 1, 2013

An Israeli soldier and her comrades are seen during the final stages of a march near Ein Yahav in southern Israel, Dec. 20, 2006. The past ten years have seen an important shift in the way the Israeli army views its female conscripts, allowing them out of the clerical or support jobs to which they were traditionally confined and making room for them on the battlefield.

A week after women were cleared to serve in combat, Defense Intelligence Agency employees got a different message. “Makeup makes you more attractive.” “Don’t be a plain Jane.” “A sweater with a skirt is better than a sweater with slacks.” “No flats.” “Paint your nails.” “Don’t be afraid of color.” And, “brunettes have more leeway with vibrant colors than blondes or redheads.”

Men and women at DIA were given fashion advice in a presentation prepared by an employee at the agency this week. Susan Strednansky, public affairs officer at DIA, offered the agency’s regrets about the briefing, which raised eyebrows among some employees, saying, “I’m not going to deny that it exists, and it was bad. It was inappropriate for sure.” She added, “Neither the agency nor the leadership has condoned anything that was in that briefing.”

The presentation offered gender-specific advice on how to improve one’s success in the workplace through appearance. “It was an informal event that an employee put together, a briefing on How to Dress for Success,” Strednansky says. “It’s not directive. It is not mandatory. It is just, ‘Hey, here are some suggestions.'”

In response to the presentation, DIA director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn sent a letter to employees that was provided to Whispers. In it, he apologized to employees for “the unnecessary and serious distraction” and called the presentation “highly offensive.” Flynn added that he hoped the intentions were “pure of heart and intended to help… but even smart people do dumb things sometimes. That said, no one is going to be taken to the wood shed over this. They’ll require some counseling (to be sure) on what it means to think before you act.”

This article first appeared in U.S. News Weekly. Get these stories first, subscribe today.

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