Baroness Susan Greenfield: We agonise too much over looks

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The Independent Online

It is a complete nonsense to suggest that only airheads can look attractive and that brainy girls are condemned to a life of dowdiness.

Anyone who thinks like that, I suspect, must feel very threatened by intelligent women who also happen to be good-looking. And most of those people must surely be male. Do women say you can't have good looks and brains? I wouldn't think so, not these days, not the vast majority.

Jill Berry is right that you can have fun dressing up without it being a reflection on your intellectual prowess. Serious-minded people are the same as everyone else when it comes to trying on clothes and just because you enjoy it doesn't mean that's all you care about. You don't want to get too po-faced.

My view is that you usually dress to feel attractive in yourself, to feel comfortable and happy about yourself. It's not so much how other people see you. The French have a lovely phrase for it – happy in your skin. The issue for me is whether you feel happy.

As a woman you sometimes feel comfortable in the outfit you have chosen for the day and sometimes you don't. It's how the fabric feels on your skin, how it moves when you walk. If you put on a well-made dress, it feels right. If a woman wants to wear a boiler suit or Chanel, either is fine. It's up to her. Anyway, my view is that we agonise too much about our appearances.

There are, of course, times when appearance has to take a back seat. It's not that you aren't beautiful, it's that on these occasions you are oblivious to everything but your work. You are so wrapped up in it that making sure your handbag matches your shoes is given a much lower priority than usual. I remember a colleague of mine, who shall remain nameless, was so anxious to continue with her experiments that she came into the lab still wearing her pyjama top. She had forgotten to change out of it and didn't notice at all until later in the day.

One thing that throws me is when I'm taking part in a serious interview and the journalist asks me where I got my shoes from. I do find that a little bit strange – it has nothing to do with the science we were talking about. What's its relevance? I can't imagine a male colleague taking part in a similar interview would be asked where he got his shoes or his tie.

Baroness Susan Greenfield is a director of the Royal Institution of Great Britain