Just imagine how you would feel if your boss told you to put on more make-up, wear high heels and short skirts. Outraged? Shocked?
Well, unfortunately, it’s a regular occurrence for many women in the UK, according to new research.
In a survey of 2,000 employees there commissioned by employment lawyers Slater and Gordon, 86% of women said they felt pressured to dress “sexier” in order to protect their careers.
Seven per cent said their bosses urged them to wear high heels in the office or with clients because it made them “more appealing”. Yikes – disheartening statistics for this day and age.
Josephine Van Lierop, of Slater and Gordon, described the results as “very disappointing but not surprising”, adding remarks about a woman’s appearance tended to come from sectors such as financial services, hospitality and the City.
The survey reveals sexism in the workplace, claiming 28% of women reported 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 vamp up their appearance.
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. Male employees did say they had been told to remove hair dye, jewellery and cover any visible tattoos.
There are also more intangible pressures on women. 52% feel that wearing the same outfit is frowned upon, and 37% said they felt expected to “refresh” their wardrobe on a regular basis.
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 a bit more lipstick for an office job doesn’t come into this.