One of the fun perks of being a woman is that everyone has an opinion about what is "appropriate" for women to wear in the workplace. Workplace sexism doesn't just manifest itself in smaller paychecks, sexual harassment and women getting overlooked for promotions. Employers across industries also feel entitled to tell women that feminine "grooming," such as wearing makeup and high heels, is part of their jobs.
London receptionist Nicola Thorp experienced this firsthand when she was sent home from her first day at a new corporate job for asking to wear "smart" flats instead of heels. When she asked if men had similar footwear requirements, Thorp told the BBC, her new boss laughed in her face. So Thorp launched an online petition to make it illegal for companies to require employees to wear high heels, which garnered more than 18,000 signatures overnight.
Unfortunately, Thorp's office's sexist dress code is perfectly legal. In the United Kingdom, employers are allowed to fire staff members who fail to live up to "reasonable" dress code demands, In both the United States and in the United Kingdom, employers can also legally require different dress code standards for men and women, as long as these standards don't place an "undue burden" on one gender.
Last week on Reddit, a user called spasmos wrote about her female coworkers being scolded by their managers during a mid-year performance review for not wearing high heels at the office. Hundreds of users replied with outrage and their own personal stories of being criticized for their physical appearance at the workplace.
"I was pulled off of work for an in-office interview for a different department and berated because I wasn't dressed up enough like some of the other girls, and specifically I wasn't wearing 'enough makeup,'" wrote commenter fille_du_nord. Another woman described being chastised during an exit interview. "I asked for feedback and instead of giving me feedback on my accounting work I was told I should have worn more makeup (I'm allergic, thanks) and heels," wrote Reddit user misoranomegami.
Wearing heels in the workplace doesn't just make women uncomfortable — it's also not great for their health, as wearing high heels has been proven to cause permanent damage to women's feet. Last week, a Facebook user named Nicola Gavins posted a viral photo of her friend's bloody feet after being forced to wear heels during her waitressing shift at a Canadian restaurant.
Hey, employers: unless you mandate men wear heels, makeup and powdered wigs too, it might be time to join the rest of us in the 21st century and let women wear whatever shoes they want to wear to work.