Quarter of women told looking good is ‘better for business’
New research reveals unlawful sex discrimination is rife as employers pressure women to wear high heels and more makeup
Women in the workplace are being told to dress in a way that makes them ‘prettier’ and ‘more appealing’, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) reporting they have been told that changing their appearance would be ‘better for business’.
Four-fifths (86 per cent) of female employees said they feared their careers might suffer if they didn’t comply with such requests, according to the study of 2,000 UK employees commissioned by law firm Slater and Gordon.
One in seven women said they had been told by bosses they preferred women to wear high heels while in the office or a meeting with clients because it made them ‘more appealing’.
Nearly 8 per cent of women said they’d been told to wear more makeup to ‘look prettier’, with another 8 per cent saying their appearance had been scrutinised in front of colleagues. More than a third (34 per cent) said comments about their dress and looks had been made in public, and a further 12 per cent said they felt belittled.
While 19 per cent of women admitted more attention was paid to their appearance than their male peers, a further 13 per cent said they eventually gave in to pressure from bosses to change their style.
“The findings of this survey are very disappointing but not surprising,” said Josephine Van Lierop, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon. “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 and hospitality. The current position on dress codes under UK employment law is relatively clear: an employer is allowed to impose a dress code on its employees. But usually this will be put in place for health and safety reasons, or to promote a particular image; for example, of smartness and efficiency.
“A dress code must not be discriminatory on protected grounds such as gender or religious belief, and disabled employees have the right to have adjustments made to alleviate disadvantage.”
Male respondents to the survey shared their contrasting experiences. More than half (54 per cent) said they never received comments about their appearance and only 3 per cent were occasionally told to dress smarter. Almost half (48 per cent) felt their dress code was more clearly defined and male colleagues were far less likely to comment about their appearance than their female counterparts. However, many reported that they had been told to remove hair dye and jewellery, and cover any visible tattoos.
“Employers will argue that men and women must be dressed smartly or well-groomed for a person of their gender. However, in 2016 there is absolutely no expectation that women in business should wear makeup or high heels in order to be smartly dressed. Imposing this expectation on women only is arguably unlawful sex discrimination,” added Van Lierop.
Story via – http://www.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/09/20/quarter-of-women-told-looking-good-is-better-for-business.aspx