Despite legislation to the contrary, a sizeable percentage of women still face sexist comments, harassment and discrimination at work, often from the people who employ them.
One of the most common forms of discrimination still persisting even in the so-called enlightened 21st century is over a woman worker’s appearance, with a recent survey by legal firm Slater and Gordon revealing that a significant number of women report facing regular derogatory comments on their clothing and makeup from their employers.
Almost one-third reported that they had been told to change the way they look to fit in or improve business, while 13% said they had acted on suggestions from bosses to ‘vamp up’ the way they look, wearing more revealing clothes as a result. 7% of the women surveyed said their bosses urged them to wear high heels at work or when meeting clients, while 8% had been told they should put on more makeup to ‘look prettier’.
Although it is acceptable for employers to require their employees, both male and female, to dress smartly if and when the need arises, such as when meeting clients, it is unacceptable for bosses to discriminate by asking female workers to don makeup or wear heels. It is quite possible for females to look smart and presentable without these accoutrements.
The survey followed a recent campaign by temporary office worker Nicola Thorp, who set up a petition after being sent home from a job after refusing to wear high heels. The petition urges the government to make it illegal for companies to force their female employees to wear makeup or high heels.
Nicola is not the only woman who has faced such unnecessary measures. Another, a barrister, says many bosses and co-workers still have issues about women wearing ‘unusual’ clothing and that there is still a culture of aggression and masculinity within her profession.
Yet another reported being taken aside by her boss at a hotel and told she was wearing too much makeup, while another was sent home from her job and forced to change her outfit, even though it was perfectly presentable.
Women also continually report being the target of derogatory remarks about their body and image – something few males face. It seems sexism is alive and well in certain areas.
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