Unity without uniformity: Dressing down to get ahead – Carrie Barclay, Editor-in-Chief and Head of Content at the Parliamentary Digital Service

Woman holding mug

Carrie Barclay is Editor-in-Chief and Head of Content at the Parliamentary Digital Service, where she is responsible for shaping the content strategy for UK Parliament. Prior to her current role, she was Head of Editorial at the Government Digital Service, as well as having experience of writing and editing for a wide variety of blogs and digital magazines. Carrie studied criminal psychology at the University of Brighton.

Carrie Barclay

Carrie Barclay

“…In a world where women feel compelled to start petitions against being forced to wear heels to work, I’m certainly grateful that I work in a progressive environment that lets me dress the way I want to…”

Why fit in when you were born to stand out?

When my dad first heard I’d got a job working in government, he gave me that quizzical, tilted head, kinda confused look. “Are you sure you’ll … fit in?” I get that a lot. These days, I’m down by the river working in Parliament – but the slightly perplexed looks haven’t floated away.

I’ve worked in public service for the last few years, but that’s not where my journey began. I started life as a lifestyle / beauty digital journalist, before moving onto editorial consulting. I worked with amazing brands on digital content and concepts, developing tone of voice for all manner of gorgeous editorial offerings, and had a blast creating kick-ass content all the live long day.

Big BenOne day, I was approached to talk to the government about their editorial offerings (or, at that time, the distinct lack of). After a number of long conversations, not all of which were easy, I was headhunted to join them (yeah, I didn’t exactly expect that either).

Since then, I’ve moved on to take on the role of Editor-in-Chief for UK Parliament. It’s my biggest challenge to date, but it’s an amazing role.

Digital dress code

I’m tasked with developing the content strategy for Parliamentary Digital Service, and consult with people all across the estate about their content needs and how my team can help. I consult with people of all levels of seniority – it’s a part of the job that I really enjoy.

And I do it all in (often ripped) jeans, oversized checked shirts, obscure slogan t-shirts, and sneakers. Oh, and a half-shaven head.

Does this hinder my ability to be taken seriously? Absolutely not. In fact, I’d argue it’s quite the opposite. I’m a digital native running a digital team in a digital department. Whether you like it or not, ‘digital’ people have a uniform all our own. And it doesn’t involve suits and ties, pencil skirts, or buttoned up blouses.

Clothes don’t make the woman

Digital can be an alien concept. It’s still something that people are cautious about, and that’s ok. What I care about is that the people I work with trust that my pair of hands are safe ones to leave their content in. I take the time to understand the people I’m working with, and always make sure I’m respectful of their needs, ideas, goals, and experiences. What I wear doesn’t need to come into it.

However, it does … but not in the way you might think.

Space to shine

By being easily identifiable and visibly different from many others around me, I stand out as someone that does things differently, too. I work happily alongside subject matter experts, knowing they often feel more comfortable when the visible cues suggest my areas of expertise is different from theirs. It gives us both space to shine.

I get taken seriously in meetings with people I don’t know because I visibly look like I represent the digital agenda; and I’ve got the confidence and knowledge to back it up.

High heelsIn a world where women feel compelled to start petitions against being forced to wear heels to work, I’m certainly grateful that I work in a progressive environment that lets me dress the way I want to. I have always expected my talent and expertise to do the talking for me, not the pieces of cloth that are sewn together, hung in a shop, and bought by me so I can avoid being naked in public.

So far, so good.

 

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