Today, members of the British Parliament are debating a ban on “mandatory workplace heels” in response to one woman’s 2016 petition that received over 150,000 signatures. Also today, members of My Brain are wondering how the fuck this is still a thing.
In 2015, Nicole Thorp, writer of said petition, was sent home from a temp assignment for wearing flats. Reports USA Today: “Her employment agency, Portico, had a dress code specifying that female workers must wear non-opaque tights, have hair with ‘no visible roots,’ wear ‘regularly re-applied’ makeup — and appear in shoes with a heel between 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) high.”
First of all, I fail every single one of these requirements every single day. Second of all, what is this Mad Men-era bullshit?! If these are the written rules, I can only imagine the unspoken ones. (Female workers must fetch male colleagues a nice glass of whiskey when asked? Just spitballing here.) For the record, Portico has since switched to a gender-neutral dress code. My sincere congrats to them for joining this millennium.
The Parliament debate is not over a new law. The U.K. currently has legislation in place that prohibits companies from discriminatory dress codes like these. The problem that Thorp and the thousands who signed are hoping to address is enforcement — apparently these sexist policies are still commonplace. There are also plenty of countries, including the U.S., who have failed to crackdown on workplace dreadlock discrimination.
It goes without saying that this laxity and these oversights around equality laws are a huge disservice to women. There are already plenty of social consequences around how we choose to present ourselves without the rigor of official ones. It makes me curious how many women are still dealing with this kind of thing. I’m in a bubble wherein you’re as likely to see kneecap leggings worn as pants as you are a bra layered over a shirt. And maybe you remember: the founder of my company wears not a stitch of makeup.
But it’s not lost on me that this isn’t the norm. You, our readers, comment all the time on our work dress stories (like this one, this one, this one) that our suggestions are still not conservative enough. So I want to ask: What are your dress code policies? Are they gendered? Are they sexist? Are they racist? Are they unspoken? Have you experienced consequences? How are they making you feel?
DO WE NEED TO START A SIMILAR PETITION IN THE U.S.? I volunteer to write it if so.
Photo by Edward Kasper/Conde Nast via Getty Images.