High heels make the look, says Childrens-Hospital-CEO Madeline Bell

Heels or not? Are they must for executive women? Madeline Bell, chief executive at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, says she wears heels every day. (She was wearing heels  -- and not particularly high ones on the day I interviewed her for my Executive Q&A, published in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer.)

"I think they’re not practical feeling, but they put the look together from my point of view,"  said Bell, who started her career as a nurse. I've been asking all the women CEOs about whether heels are necessary for executive presence. Haven't asked any of the male CEOs that question. Hmmm. You can read her other hints for women on the rise in her blog, Heels of Success.

Question: As a nurse, you probably wore something flat and comfortable.

Answer:  I certainly didn’t wear heels.  There are heels that I like that I don’t wear because they’re not practical because they’re too high. 

Q: So you rarely wear them?

A: Never.  I just look at them and I think they look good and then I think, `No way.'  Today I have a lot of walking and a lot of places to visit, so, I try to wear sensible heels, but I do think it finishes off the look.

Q: What is “the look?”

A:  Well, I wrote this in my blog about executive presence. Executive presence to me is more about how you feel and your confidence level. But I also think that when you’re in a role, you are there to represent your organization.  So, you need to look professional and you need to be put together so that people's first impression isn’t, `Oh, what’s wrong with her? She’s under-dressed. It’s just a fashion thing.

Q: Most of the other female CEOs said the same thing, with one or two exceptions. One of them said she won't even walk out of her office into the little section of her executive corridor without high heels. 

A:  I would probably say the same for me.  We have locations on the other side of Penn's campus, at 36th and Market.  When I have to walk there, I will bring a change of shoes and put them in my handbag and then like a block before I get there I’ll certainly put my heels on.

Q: I always feel I should be able to break out into a flat-out run in my shoes, just in case I need to for reporting.

A: I don’t run in high heels on a regular basis, but I have gone pretty briskly to a meeting in high heels.

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