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Nicola Thorpe, high heels, petition against sexism at work

(76 Posts)
thatbags Thu 12-May-16 06:44:59

Nicola Thorpe was sent home without pay because she refused to wear high heels at work and said such a requirement was sexist unless men were ordered to do it too.

There is a petition here for such nonsense to be made illegal though, to be honest, it already should be regarded as illegal if it is not applied equally to all genders.

janeainsworth Thu 12-May-16 07:00:16

Here's the backstory. There's always more than meets the eye in these things.

Nicola was temping and her main job is an actress. Presumably if she had landed an acting role and been told the costume involved wearing 2 inch heels, she would have complied with that stipulation.
I think that being a receptionist for a company like PwC probably does involve a certain amount of acting, as do many jobs that involve interacting with the public, so perhaps a dress code involving make up and modestly heeled shoes isn't that unreasonable.
I don't see that dress codes should be the same for both genders, either.

mumofmadboys Thu 12-May-16 07:09:02


Grannyknot Thu 12-May-16 07:09:13

jane when I started my first job for an airline in 1967, our group of young women who were to be "Ground Hostesses" (as opposed to "Air Hostesses") - how old-fashioned those terms sound now - was told by the boss "When you step out of here dressed in your uniform, you are on stage". I took it to heart and have never forgotten it. In some way it suggested behaving professionally at all times, and leaving personal dramas behind. Not bad advice for a group of 18 year olds.

thatbags Thu 12-May-16 07:20:05

Acting is different, janea. One's acting a role and the heels would not be required all the time. One is acting a role as a receptionist (or whatever she was employed to do) too but it's not a role that requires high heels. It requires smartness. It's perfectly possible to be smart in flat comfortable shoes, as men in similar positions are.

thatbags Thu 12-May-16 07:21:38

What's wrong with a dress code for both genders that requires smartness but without compromising a person's health, as high heels can (and do).

Indinana Thu 12-May-16 07:38:44

I think the question worth asking is why do the bosses want their receptionist in high heels? She can look perfectly presentable in a pair of smart flat shoes, so what is added by her wearing heels? Well we know that heels make the legs appear longer. Why should having longer looking legs be a requirement of the job? We also know heels are considered sexier than flats. Is there a comparable item of men's business clothing that makes them look sexier and is therefore a requirement of their job? I doubt it.

obieone Thu 12-May-16 08:06:30

I started thinking about it yesterday, and partly stopped because I didnt have time, and partly stopped because I thought that the issue was a bit more complicated than I first thought.

I am not sure she has much of a case from a sexism point of view.

I have been trying to think of jobs where men have dress codes.
Airline staff, chefs, my mind went blank after that, city workers etc.

HIgh heels being a health issue is a far more relevant point in my opinion.

obieone Thu 12-May-16 08:07:46

In her petition she is going for the sexist angle.
Going for the health angle is a different matter.

janeainsworth Thu 12-May-16 08:12:07

That's an excellent illustration of the principle, Gk.
Bags It's not a question of smartness per se, as about individual identity vs corporate identity.
It should be made clear it was not PwC who imposed this rule, but the agency which sent Nicola there.
But when you choose to work for an organisation, whether it a multinational corporation, a hospital or a school, you take on board tyhat organisation's ethos, guidelines and regulations. If that includes a dress code, so be it. Of course if there are health reasons why someone can't or shouldn't wear 2 inch heels, then an exception should be made, but that is already covered by existing legislation.
And yes, any job which involves interacting with the public involves and requires acting.
You go to work feeling depressed, anxious, miserable or angry and you have to hide that and put your happy face on, because the public, your clients, customers, patients or pupils, and your colleagues, are more important than you are. That's acting.
I think too that laws should be made from principles and not from individual grievances.
Finally, a disclosure. I wouldn't allow my employees to wear sandals or open toed shoes at work because I thought they looked wrong in a clinical environment.

thatbags Thu 12-May-16 08:18:58

In principle, I agree, janea, but indi's comment hit the nail on the head. This isn't about reasonable dress code.

There is also the issue of how much choice a person in need of work to earn a living actually has.

One is not allowed to wear open toed shoes on an archery range either, for safety reasons: sometimes an arrow will go horizontally into the ground; you could get a nasty injury by shoving your foot into it because you didn't see it.

Health concerns, smartness, pleasant appearance, lack of moodiness, etc, etc, I have no problem with. Wanting women to look sexy, I do. If they choose that themselves that's another matter but it shouldn't ever be a work requirement.

thatbags Thu 12-May-16 08:24:27

Besides which, as I know from experience, it's perfectly possible to look sexy in flat shoes!!!

Luckygirl Thu 12-May-16 08:31:23

I find it very hard to see any justification for requiring women to wear high heels at work. There is none. Smart is a sensible stipulation in many jobs; but asking women to wear shoes that wreck their spine and feet is not acceptable. The reason they are asked to wear them is because it changes how they stand and walk and it is considered sexy. There is no other possible reason for wanting them to wear heels.

Alea Thu 12-May-16 08:33:38

Hardly an issue which needs overthinking! So don't fret further obieone, unless thinking of jobs which involve a dress code helps you pass the time. (Maybe start a thread?)
If it wasn't PWC policy why was the woman sent home? Smart appropriate "business dress" does not preclude flat OT flattish shoes, the issue to me is what sort of flats. Crocs or trainers ? Of course not. Ballet flats? Hmm. They can look like slippers. Low heeled courts? Fine. Closed toes and heels are not an unreasonable requirement.

Alea Thu 12-May-16 08:36:17

Why on earth did or come up as OT ?
<give up>

thatbags Thu 12-May-16 08:39:54

Women's heels higher than what is usual in men's shoes is not a reasonable requirement in my view. Closed toes, fine.

BBbevan Thu 12-May-16 08:42:37

One can act and look professional in low or high heels. It is the ' professional' aspect that is important.
My GDDs are expected to wear a uniform to school. Some of their teachers wear flip- flops and extremely short skirts. The male teachers sport open necked shirts and trainers. There was a headmaster on television last week wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
Nicola Thorpe looked extremely well ' turned out' . If only that level of dress extended to all professionals

Marmark1 Thu 12-May-16 08:43:22

A silly little wannabe,she was told of the dress code,and yes, why didn't she go for the health issue,far more important,

radicalnan Thu 12-May-16 10:05:58

No mention of the make up stipulation here, which is another thing that is required for women in some jobs. Men's faces are accepted as they are but we are expected to paint ourselves up as if we are unacceptable without cosmetic assistance, and it isn't tax deductible as uniforms are. More fool us for going long with such requirements.

Rosina Thu 12-May-16 10:15:12

Why should this woman cripple her feet for nine hours at a stretch? It is completely unreasonable. I am all for smartness and a proper dress code and abhor the habit of teaching staff looking as if they have just been to the gym or are gardening ('worked in a school for twenty years and saw some sartorial efforts by teachers that made me want to weep - the children of course had to wear uniform) My husband worked in a bank and in the early days, without air conditioning, he and the other male staff had to wear a suit with jacket on and a tie properly knotted at all times, often in sweltering heat in the 'back room' when they were not visible to the customers. I did suggest they should all, with one accord, faint, but he felt this might compromise any promotion. The female staff wore sleeveless dresses and had bare legs and smart sandals, without comment being made. All this stupidity died out years ago - or so I thought. The lady in question looked smart, clean and attractive, with a lovely smile, which she would not have been wearing had her feet been in agony!

janeainsworth Thu 12-May-16 10:16:16

Bags You're making a bit of an assumption that the 2 inch heel stipulation was put in to make employees look sexy. That may be the case in a bar or similar establishment, but not necessarily at PwC.
The essence of employment law is the concept of reasonableness.
Is it reasonable for an organisation to stipulate a dress code for its employees? Yes.
Is s 2 inch heel requirement reasonable? Probably not.
Do we need an
Act of Parliament to settle this question? No.
Why not? Because employees already have recourse to grievance policies, sex discrimination law etc.

But what the heck. An aspiring young actress has got her name and photo in all the newspapers and on telly.
Cynical? Moi? wink

sharkgirl Thu 12-May-16 10:24:35

Two inch heels can hardly be classed as "high heels". I would imagine this is in place to prevent casual shoes being worn in a professional environment, possibly the range could be dropped to from one inch. It's not about sexism or health it's about respect and it sounds like some people have turned up in inappropriate footwear in the past, possibly looking too casual. For example the "heel" on my Uggs is one inch and my trainers slightly more. I wear trainers because I'm a sports teacher.

missdeke Thu 12-May-16 10:26:54

I worked as a holiday rep for 13 years, our 'airport uniform' consisted of 2"+ heels in black, a dark pencil skirt, blouse with a collar and sleeves and a polyester scarf tied tightly round the neck. All done in temperatures which quite often rose above 50 degrees, without the benefit of a sun hat or sunglasses, and we still had to be cheerful, polite and welcoming. So ladies next time you go on one of those lovely foreign holiday, remember your rep may have been standing there for around 8 hours in these conditions, please be polite and friendly back.

Uniforms and dress codes are the bane of many lives but unfortunately those who design them don't have to wear them!

M0nica Thu 12-May-16 10:27:27

I totally agree that being expected to wear high heels at work is pushing a dress code too far. But I think the decision to include it was not as calculated or deliberately sexist as some have suggested. It was quite simply that the company drew up a list about what being suitably dressed involved and someone just assumed, for women that included wearing high heels.

Back in the 1960s I worked for McKinseys, a high profile (still) American consultancy firm. All the consultants were men and they had a strict dress code, which included wearing long socks so that no flesh was inadvertently exposed between sock top and trouser length. I think white shirts and dark ties were also on the list. It was so prescriptive, it was nearly a uniform.

GandTea Thu 12-May-16 10:35:02

Unless it is an agreed contact, that you accepted as the terms of the job,
anyone should be able to wear clothes suitable for the job.
If this woman agreed to wear high heels as part of her job, she has little to complain about.
Better than some of the safety boots and wellies I have had to wear.
Many jobs demand specific clothing as part of their contract of employment.