Highs & Lows The tribulations of women at work

Every now and again you hear it. And every time, it shocks and saddens...

For me, most recently, it was a young woman, studying history at Oxford. 'Of course', she said 'we're living in a post-feminist age. Those battles have been won. Feminism isn't relevant anymore'.

Well try telling that to Nicola Thorp who turned up for her first day temping at PricewaterhouseCoopers to be told that she should be wearing a heel between 2 and 4 inches in height.

She refused, making the comment that this rule did not apply to her male colleagues and was sent home... without pay.

Speaking to BBC Radio London, Thorp said 'I said "if you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job today, then fair enough", but they couldn't'.

Speaking to friends about it, and posting on Facebook, she realised that other women face this double-standard in the workplace.

"I was a bit scared about speaking up about it in case there was a negative backlash," she said. "But I realised I needed to put a voice to this as it is a much bigger issue."

She set up a petition calling for the law to be changed so women cannot be forced to wear high heels to work.

In 6 months it had more than 150,000 signatures, forcing a government response.

Here are some choice highlights from the (now updated) dress code Portico (Thorp's agency) was running in 2016: 'Regularly maintained hair colour (if individual colours hair) with no visible roots.' No flower accessories. 'Makeup at all times (unless for medical reasons) with a minimum of light blusher, lipstick or tinted gloss, mascara eye shadow, light foundation/powder'.

The government's response hardly seems sufficient. The health risks associated with the prolonged wearing of high heels are well documented. No employer should be permitted to deem it reasonable to demean a professional woman to the status of eye-candy in this manner. Forget equality legislation... such practices should fall within the remit of health and safety legislation.

Visit Thorp's website, Who Are You Wearing to engage with her women's equality campaigning.

Created By
John Field

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