While it might sound like a scene out of a fictional ’60s television show, women are — believe it or not — still ridiculed for what they choose (or choose not to) wear in professional settings. Nicola Thorp, a 27-year-old woman working at a City firm in London was sent home by her superiors after refusing to wear high heels.
According to BBC News, Thorp said that she was laughed at after telling her bosses that she didn’t want to wear heels on her first day as a corporate receptionist.
“I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said I just won’t be able to do that in heels,” she said in an interview.
On her first day, Thorp arrived at the firm wearing flats. Upon arrival, her bosses told her that she had to leave without pay unless she went out and purchased heels that were between two to four inches high.
Upon refusal, Portico — the firm that runs the company’s reception at the office in Embarkment, London — followed through with its threat.
Now, Thorp has spearheaded a petition to England’s government, demanding that “women have the options to wear flat formal shoes at work.” So far, the petition has accrued more than 7,000 signatures. The petition states that the current law as it stands is “outdated and sexist.”
Currently, U.K. employers are allowed to dismiss employees who fail to live up to “reasonable” dress code demands.
And while reasonable demands that were equal for men and women might be understandable, a dress code that includes high heels “reeks of sexism,” comments Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), who adds, “high heels should be a choice, not a requirement.”
After all, we don’t see many offices with men required to wear heels in the workplace.
This sartorial inequality speaks to larger, persisting instances of gender inequality in the workplace throughout the world. For example, in a recent survey, 75% of Canadian women do not believe men and women are paid equally.