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Opinion: High heels and feminism

As a woman in business and in tech, it has become a tradition for me to write a personal message on International Women's Day. Over the past few years, I focused on statistics, personal experiences, and the progress (or the lack thereof) in gender diversity, equity, and inclusion. This year, after doing some research, I realized the progress is a little too slow for an efficient person like me.(*) So, instead, in 2024, my annual blog for International Women's Day is about a lighter topic: high heels!

The notorious high heels... They are towering symbols of power, femininity, and for many women - tormentation - at the same time. How can I love high heels and still proudly wave the feminist flag?

Anyone who's ever worn high heels will recognize this scenario: You're walking down the street in your favorite pair of heels, feeling like a boss ready to take on the world. Your confidence is as high as your heels, until... bam! You hit an unexpected crack in the sidewalk, and suddenly you're doing an impromptu rendition of the chicken dance. Yep, those heels may give you legs for days, but they also turn simple sidewalk cracks into Olympic hurdles. But let's be honest, the heels are not the problem - the cracks in the sidewalk are. Who needs the gym when you're getting a full-body workout just walking in heels on poorly maintained roads?

Wearing heels definitely comes with its fair share of challenges – challenges that women are more than capable of overcoming. Because let's face it, if anyone can conquer the world in a pair of three-inch stilettos, it's a woman on a mission.

In a world where women are constantly battling stereotypes and societal expectations, high heels offer a playful twist on empowerment. They show that you can embrace your femininity and still stand your ground in the boardroom or on the dance floor. After all, who says you can't be a fierce feminist while rocking a killer pair of heels?

Despite their occasional antics, high heels are the ultimate confidence booster. There's something undeniably empowering about slipping into a pair of high heels and instantly feeling like you can conquer the world – or at least conquer that daunting work presentation. It's like strapping on a pair of superhero boots and channeling your inner Wonder Woman, ready to take on anything that comes your way.

Of course, let's not overlook the secret weapon of high heels: the infamous click-clack sound. There's no denying the satisfying power trip that comes with that rhythmic sound echoing through the office hallway. It's the sound of authority and professionalism.

And then there's the age-old debate of whether high heels are a tool of oppression or a symbol of liberation. Can you be a feminist and still love high heels? Absolutely! Feminism is all about choice and autonomy, and if strutting in stilettos makes you feel like a queen, then more power to you. High heels are more than just a fashion statement – they're a nod to the complexities of modern womanhood. They're a reminder that you can embrace your femininity, laugh at life's little inconveniences, and still proudly champion the cause of gender equality.

In the end, high heels are a little bit like men. They can be a source of both empowerment and exasperation, but hey! Life would certainly be a lot less entertaining without them. So here's to high heels – the unsung heroes of women's fashion, the ultimate confidence boosters, and the comedic relief we never knew we needed.

Katrien Herdewyn

Founder, Elegnano

(*) For example, when it comes to money and power, you need a magnifying glass to see progress in gender equality in the last 20-plus years. Since 2002 (that is 22 years!!!), women have gone from 80ct to 82ct for every dollar a man makes in the Western world. We're on track to close that wage gap in 198 years, girls! Or, let's look at women in leadership positions. In Fortune 500 companies, only 53 of the 500 are women. That 10.6% is an all-time high. The first female CEO to head a Fortune 500 company was Katharine Graham in 1972. That is not a lot of progress in 52 years - plus one woman per year. Or 197 more years to go to get to 50-50. I am aware there is a lot of nuance to data like this - but it is safe to say that 'stagnating' is not an overstatement with these numbers.


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