Just as International Women’s Day was being celebrated around the world, a particular woman’s case went to Parliament in England. The crime — refusing to wear high heels — a requirement for her job as a temp receptionist. And now, these dress code policies are being debated in British Parliament.
Nicola’s Day in Parliament
Nicola Thorp was fired from her job as temp receptionist in 2016 when she refused to comply with the long-standing dress code of having to wear heels. Thorp then petitioned parliament who is debating the issue this week during a Women and Equalities Committee meeting in the House of Commons.
Thorp’s petition has been signed by more than 150,000 people.
Research by the Petitions Committee and Women’s and Equalities Committee discovered that gender-specific dress codes are still alive and well in many companies which include the mandatory wearing of heels. The committees’ joint report found that dress codes such as this are still widespread, even though they basically amount to discrimination under the Equality Act.
The committee also listened to a variety of accounts from several women who complained that some dress codes leave them feeling “degraded,” “demeaned,” and “sexualized” in their jobs. They concluded that the Equality Act is “not yet fully effective” and “obviously not working in practice.”
Just this past January, the “Women’s and Equalities Committee published a report, highlighting the issue of an outdated and sexist dress code that has even extended to hair and makeup. Chair of the Commissions Committee, MP Helen Jones stated, “We decided to investigate these issues. It is fair to say that what we found shocked us,” she told Women’s World Daily.
“We found attitudes that were more [relevant to the] 1850s than to the 21st century. We found women were exploited at work. They were forced to bear pain all day or to dress in a way that was demeaning. When they addressed these issues they were dismissed.”
It seems the allegations that started the investigation in Parliament also included the fact that Nicola Thorp was also asked to dye her hair and to be sure she reapplied her makeup throughout the day. One other committee member said, “It is a safe bet these dress codes have been under the radar. However, this is not just about shoes, it’s about how people are treated and, in particular, women.”
The Huffington Post UK reported that Sam Smethers, chief executive of the women’s rights group, Fawcett Society, called on workplaces to focus less on dress. She said: ”Sexist dress codes which objectify women and make LGBT+ employees feel excluded have no place in modern workplaces. Employers need to focus on what drives productivity and enables their staff to feel part of a team. It isn’t a pair of high heels.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time these outrageous demands and mandatory dress codes have been forced on women. The U.S. has also had cases over the years where women were made to wear uncomfortable or overly sexual clothing for jobs. However, as each case comes to light and is examined in court, there’s the continuation of progress.
The Women and Equalities Committee will issue their official response to the outdated dress codes in the UK later this month.
Featured Image: https://twitter.com/HoCPress/status /838772743722119170
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