Ohio woman shows off tattoos in company headshot

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Jessica Leonard is a partner with Evolution Capital Partners in Cleveland.  ((Credit: Wetzler Studios))

An Ohio woman is going viral for shattering the corporate norms by proudly showing off her tattoos in a company headshot. 

Jessica Leonard is a partner with Cleveland-based Evolution Capital Partners, a private investment firm.

She recently posed for a company photo in typical business attire with a suitcoat. She then asked the photographer to take photos without her suitcoat, which revealed her tattoo sleeves on both arms. She wanted the second set of photos to be for her LinkedIn page. 

When she asked permission, her boss surprised her and proposed using the second photo, with the tattoos, on the company’s website. 

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"Our Founding Partner’s response to my text was ‘Let’s roll with the tattoos in both!! Loud and proud,’" Leonard told FOX Television Stations. "I responded thanking him for allowing me to show up as I am every day, and his response was ‘I would expect nothing less from you.’"

Her LinkedIn post, showing both photos, went viral, garnering more than 31,000 reactions and nearly 2,500 comments. 

"I’m still having a difficult time believing that my post went viral," she said. "The greatest surprise to me has been the overwhelming positive reaction and the number of comments and personal messages I’ve received from people who were moved by the post."

"I’ve heard from hundreds of people who have experienced bias and judgment in the workplace for everything from their race, weight, age, piercings, hair length, and hair color, and my message really resonated with them. It’s been an inspiring experience," she continued. 

Leonard said her tattoos are illustrations of some of the deepest parts of her heart. Some represent the loss she experienced, including her 4-year-old nephew who died from brain cancer. Other tattoos reflect love, hope, family and friendship. 

"The art on my skin has been quite healing for me in many ways," she said. 

Leonard said she hopes to prevent implicit bias in the workplace with her post. She said she wanted to let people know she felt great about her freedom and acceptance in the workplace and that there are company leaders who accept you for who you are.

Bias in the workplace has come under a microscope in recent years. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that about four-in-10 believe higher standards for women and lack of readiness by companies to hire women for top positions are major reasons that there aren’t more women in top leadership roles in business and politics. The 2007 Corporate Leavers Survey, conducted by the Level Playing Field Institute, showed that each year more than 2 million professionals and managers voluntarily leave their jobs solely due to unfairness, costing US employers $64 billion in turnover annually.

Meanwhile, Leonard said she plans to get even more tattoos. She’s not sure what she wants to get but said portraits of her two dogs are at the top of her list. 

"I do put a lot of thought into the ‘what’ and ‘where’ before every session, though, so I’ll get my next one when the time feels right," she said. 

This story was reported from Los Angeles.