The XX Factor

Female Executives Are Now Making Deals at the Nail Salon

Closing the deal.   

Move over, roasted carrot and avocado salad. In your rich-lady-trend fix for the week, the New York Post explains that elite businesswomen have abandoned the power lunch for the “power pedicure.” Stylish female execs are now hashing out contracts and dreaming up marketing schemes in 30- to 50-minute group foot-care sessions. It is an elegant solution to several problems at once: Golf is boring/stodgy/takes forever, food has calories, cuticles get ragged.

Perhaps the power pedi’s most significant consequence is that reporter Jane Ridley gets to write this sentence about Donna Perillo, owner of a boutique spot in Tribeca called Sweet Lily Spa: “She and her staff have witnessed dozens of deals being signed, sealed and delivered as their Manolo Blahnik-wearing customers soak their dogs in their tubs.” I love this—not least because it conjures up an alternate universe in which high-powered women get down to business while bathing their pooches.

Anyway, but of course ladies are turning pedicures into a professional strategy. “Women are experts at multi-tasking so there’s no reason we can’t do business while we’re being pampered,” a Manhattan events planner named Andrea Correale tells the NYP. (Yes, but is talking while having your toes painted really multitasking? At lunch you at least have to use silverware.) “There’s something very girly and bonding about having [a pedicure] with another woman or a group of women,” she adds. Ruth Shelling, an entrepreneur from Australia, says that “pedicures are the answer”—to what? What is slightly less demeaning than dragging your potential client to CVS with you to buy tampons?—“because, as ambassadors of our brands, we all want to look well-groomed.” Perillo, the spa owner, asks simply: “What woman doesn’t like a pedicure?”

Plenty of women, actually! Plenty of women don’t like pedicures or are indifferent to pedicures or are even somewhat uncomfortable sitting in the lap of luxury and being ministered to by underpaid salon artists. Plenty of women couldn’t care less about “grooming” and would rather discuss your business proposal at the shooting range or on the badminton court or over knitting. You could argue that the exclusionary cloud around these beauty procedures is beside the point. A lot of male CEOs probably don’t love golf, poker, binge drinking, or whatever man activity happens to be in vogue during their reign as Masters of the Universe. But at a time when successful women are still under tremendous pressure to project the exact right strain of femininity (or get tarred as unlikeable), the power-pedi trend—if it’s real—seems counterproductive. It wants to say something very specific and retrograde about what upwardly mobile women like and prioritize, i.e. being spoiled and looking pretty. And while I’m glad if professional women who genuinely share those interests have found a convenient, work-friendly way to pursue them, I hate the idea that something as gender neutral as “lunch” has to give way to something as girly as group pedicures, cordoning off female executives as a breed apart, bound by their own cutesy rituals and preferences. It’s infantilizing. Besides, who wants to show their gross toes to a prospective business partner?