Go sexy or go home: British women feel pressured to wear heels and makeup at work

© Ruben Sprich
Women working in offices across the country are being told to put on some makeup and wear high heels and short skirts if they want to keep their jobs, research by employment lawyers revealed.

According to a study by legal firm Slater and Gordon, one in five working women in Britain felt their bosses cared more about what they wore than their male colleagues, with many feeling they had to dress “sexier” or risk sanctioning. 

Around 7 percent of the women quizzed said their managers themselves had told them to wear high heels and look “more appealing” to clients. Finance and hospitality were mapped as the industries with the highest pressure on women to look sexy for business.

The figures echo the recent high-profile case of City receptionist Nicola Thorp, who was told to leave PwC’s offices after arriving to do the job in black flats rather than high-heeled shoes.

Slater and Gordon asked 2,000 employees how they thought their appearance was valued in the workplace. Just under 50 percent of the men thought their dress code was easier to follow and less likely to draw comments than that of their female counterparts.

Earlier this year Thorp told the Telegraph that employers’ demands on their female staff’s looks was debasing women in the workplace. Her official petition to make it illegal for employers to impose heels on their female staff gathered over 150,000 signatures and Thorp was heard in Parliament by the Women and Equalities Committee in June.

“Under current UK employment law employers cannot treat one person less favorably because of their gender but there is no legislation to prevent employers from treating men and women differently in relation to dress code,” Slater and Gordon’s Josephine Van Lierop said.

"Employers will argue that men and women must be dressed smartly or well groomed for a person of their gender. However, in 2016 there is absolutely no expectation that women in business should wear makeup or high heels in order to be smartly dressed. Imposing this expectation on women only is arguably unlawful sex discrimination."