#SheWearsThePants: Carey Dunfey on doing the right thing instead of the easy thing

Name, location - and multi-hyphenated title:
Carey Dunfey, New York City, Urban Planner

What do you do - and what what drives you in your career as well as personal endeavors?
I’m an urban planner and work managing commercial revitalization grants that support projects that create a sense of place in neighborhoods and provide assistance to small business owners. Like most planners, I’m driven by the belief that we can make cities better, more equitable places to live and work in by being curious and open to new ideas. This curiosity extends to my personal life, as well. I like to be active and explore and learn new things. I like to say I know a little about a lot.

Ambition: What does ambition personally mean to you - what place does it have in your life? Do you think our culture perceives “ambition” to be a dirty word for women? Why or why not?
Ambition for me means following my passions, both big and small, both in my personal and professional life. Openly ambitious women are frequently derided; they’re too aggressive, too inauthentic, too power hungry. I like adding the word bravery into talking and thinking about ambition, because it’s brave to be an ambitious woman. I think of a friend of mine who left a good job in a big city to live and work on a rural New Hampshire farm in a small solidarious community and participate in local politics. She saw it as the harder and braver option as it forced her to really live out the values she always claimed to have. We’re so wired to think about ambition in this high level professional sense and I love thinking of her being brave and ambitious on a small, but no less important, scale.

What does ‘having confidence’ mean to you - what place does it have in your life? How do you work on it?
Confidence for me means saying and doing the right thing instead of the easy thing. It means challenging the status quo and, ultimately, believing in yourself. I don’t necessarily think I’m good at this, but I’m consciously working on it by trusting myself, my intuition, and my process.

Goals: Please share one of your current, important goals (can be personal or work-related). Why is this a goal and how did you realize it was something that you wanted to work on? What’s your plan for achieving it?
I’m a huge reader, but find I can get trapped in a never ending cycle of opening tabs of articles that are only partially enriching my life. The summer after I finished grad school, I was so excited to read non-required reading and devoured a long list of books quickly. I’m trying to re-channel some of that motivation now and read at least one book for pleasure every month by a women or person of color. Also, learn a new language. Also, use less single use plastic.

Does your pursuit of ambition, confidence and goals influence your wardrobe choices? For example, does work influence the way you dress both in the workplace and outside of it? What is your outfit when you really have to get shi*t done?
I wear a lot of black and feel most confident in jeans and a blazer. Because of this, I find that I utilize accessories when I want to access my personal badassery. This includes a few earrings, a heavy gold chain, and big rings I love, a couple of pairs of dynamic (and comfortable!) heels, and, of course, red lipstick.

What activities do you do outside of your full-time gig (whether that’s work, parenting or something else)? How does it bring balance to your life? How does it make you more successful in your full-time gig?
I started dancing forró, a Brazilian partner dance, about a year ago and picked it up again this past fall. The scene is really small in New York and really fun. Speaking of goals, I’m working to go to more of their events, which always feature a live band and, of course, lots of dancing. I’m exploring more class-based activities, which push me to be more creative and provide opportunities to meet and learn from new people. It’s easy to get caught up in the work grind in New York and sometimes we all need a reminder that it’s okay to slow down.

How do your activities outside of work influence your wardrobe and style?
I’m on the go a lot and nine times out of ten would prefer to walk somewhere instead of taking public transportation. While this can be challenging in New York, I do find myself walking a considerable amount every week. Because of this, comfortable and attractive shoes that can do from day to night are a must for my daily routine.

What are your guidelines when choosing to buy something new for your wardrobe?
Need it, love it, will use it. I’m forever trying to be more conscious of the size of my wardrobe and get annoyed when I see things I thought I would love and never use. I have a pretty casual, streamlined style and like to buy things that will fit in with my go-to items like high waisted jeans and pants, fitted dresses, and leather and jean jackets. Oh! Also, very important, only in the past few years (the things I wish I realized at 20!) have I figured out a set of styles and cuts that flatter me and I use that to be a more efficient shopper.

How would you spend an extra 15 minutes a day?
Reading poetry! I have four books of poems on my bedside table and am trying to work reading a poem or two before bed into my nighttime routine.