A British woman is fighting gender discrimination in the workplace as she seeks to make mandatory high heels at work illegal. Based on actions made by a committee in the U.K. parliament with regards to the matter, it appears that the worker is a few steps closer to winning her fight against sexist workplace codes.
Back in December 2015, Nicola Thorp reported to work as a temporary receptionist at PriceWaterhouseCooper’s London offices. The temp worker, who was employed by agency Portico, was surprised when she was told by the agency that her flat shoes were not appropriate for work and that she needed to wear heels of between 2 to 4 inches. When she refused, Thorp was sent home from work without pay.
According to Motto, the 28-year-old decided to fight back by launching a petition calling for a law that would ensure that no company would ever require to make women wear heels. In the petition, Thorp said that dress code laws should be changed so that women have the option to wear flat formal shoes to work, if they wish. She added that the current formal dress codes are “out-dated and sexist.”
The temp worker’s petition gained an overwhelming response as she received 152,420 signatures—more than enough to get a committee within the U.K. parliament to open an investigation which was published last week. The committee ran a web forum in which members of the public were invited to share their experiences of workplace dress codes. In just one week, they received 730 responses in the web forum.
In the report, the committee notes that they have heard about other kinds of gendered dress codes. Apart from being made to wear heels, the gathered evidence also reveals that there are women who have been required to dye their hair blonde, wear revealing outfits, and constantly reapply makeup while at work.
In response to the petition, the Government Equalities Office said that company dress codes must be reasonable and must make equal requirements for men and women. Moreover, employers are entitled to set dress codes for their workforce, however, these dress codes should be reasonable.
Since then, Portico has changed its dress code policy and has removed the requirement to wear high heels.
Speaking with Motto, Thorp said that there needs to be a culture shift in the workplace as asking a woman to dress in a certain way against her will is harassment. She also told The New York Times that sexism continues to be an issue that should be addressed to protect women.
“People say sexism is not an issue anymore,” said Thorp. “But when a man who has admitted publicly to sexually harassing women is the leader of the free world, it is more crucial than ever to have laws that protect women.”
For more, check out Jobs & Hire’s report on the formerly homeless man who now helps others to dress for success.