Women feel pressured to dress ‘sexier’ at work by wearing heels and putting on make-up

A new survey has revealed that women feel under pressure to dress a certain way at work [Photo: stokpic.com via Pexels]

Earlier this year we brought you the news that a woman had been sent home from work for not wearing high heels. Shocking though it was we chalked it down to a one-off setback in the strive for equality in the workplace. But turns out, it wasn’t such a rarity with new research revealing that women are regularly being told to put on makeup and wear high heels and short skirts. Just to check we are in 2016 right?

In a survey of 2,000 employees commissioned by employment lawyers Slater and Gordon, 86% of women said they felt pressured to dress “sexier” in order to protect their careers.

Meanwhile, 7% of female employees said their bosses urged them to wear high heels in the office or with clients because it made them “more appealing”. Yikes!

Sadly the survey seems to reveal that sexism in the workplace is very much alive and kicking with 28% of women claiming they had been advised that changing their appearance would be “better for business”, while 13% said they had decided to flaunt more flesh at work after suggestions by more senior employees to sex-up their appearance.

Women are being told to wear more make-up in the workplace [Photo: kaboompics.com via Pexels]

A further 19% of women workers said they felt more attention was paid to their appearance by their bosses than to their male colleagues.

In contrast, 54% of men said their appearance had never been commented upon, and a mere 3% said they had been told to dress more smartly by their more senior colleagues, though some male employees did report that they had been told to remove hair dye, jewellery and cover any visible tattoos.

And there are other, less tangible, pressures on women in the workplace. 52% feel that wearing the same outfit is frowned upon, and 37% said they felt expected to “refresh” their wardrobe on a regular basis.

Speaking about the results Josephine Van Lierop, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon said: “The findings of this survey are very disappointing but not surprising.”

“There are still far too many employers that think it is acceptable to make disparaging remarks or comments about a woman’s appearance.”

“This sort of sexism is all too prevalent in the workplace – particularly in certain sectors such as financial services, hospitality and The City.”

Current UK employment law states a dress code can be used but this is usually imposed for health and safety reasons, or to promote a particular image, for example, of smartness and efficiency. We’re pretty sure wearing high heels and slicking on the lipstick won’t have much bearing on safety in the office, nor should it have any impact whatsoever on your ability to do your job.

“A dress code must not be discriminatory on protected grounds such as gender or religious belief, and disable employees have the right to have adjustments made to alleviate disadvantage,” Josephine Van Lierop continues.

Heels at work are a must according to some employers [Photo: Getty]

Earlier this year, Nicola Thorp, the woman who was sent home for daring to wear flats to the office claimed that employers’ demands on their female staff’s looks are discriminatory. Her official petition to make it illegal for employers to impose heels on their female staff gathered over 150,000 signatures and she was heard in Parliament by the Women and Equalities Committee in June.

In the end Portico, the agency who placed her as a temporary receptionist at a city firm, agreed to review its uniform policy, but now Nicola is turning her attention to companies stipulating female employees should wear make-up.

“For an employer to stipulate you have to wear make-up – what is that saying to women?” she told the Telegraph.

“I initially decided to focus on high heels because it’s clear discrimination and it causes women pain. But there should be questions about women being expected to wear make-up at work, too.”

Have you ever been told to change your appearance at work? Share your stories @YahooStyleUK

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