In the News: Saying No to Heels at Work

Credit: Nicola Thorp

Until last summer, my company had a fairly strict dress code in place.  Men had to wear collared shirts at all times, and us ladies had to keep our shoulders covered, even on the hottest summer days.  Thankfully, the higher-ups decided to steer the code into a more relaxed direction, and I can now go to work in a tank top and jeans.  I feel comfortable when I step into the office, and it’s nice to know I won’t be judged for what I wear anymore.  I remember plenty of times when I’d take off a cardigan to reveal bare shoulders during an al fresco lunch and worry that a boss might see me like that, but that’s never on my mind anymore.

I understand why dress codes exist, and I don’t think they’re inherently bad.  They set up (usually) reasonable standards for professionalism, and I’ve never really had much of a problem with them.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.  Nicola Thorp went to her first day of work as a temp receptionist wearing a nice pair of black flats–the ones you see up at the top–and was fired for wearing them.  Her agency’s dress code required women to wear 2-4″ heels, but Nicola wasn’t having any of that.  After refusing to swap out her flats for a different pair of shoes, she was informed that she was dismissed from her new job.

Nicola didn’t let this go quietly.  Last week, she filed a petition to make it illegal for companies to require women to wear high heels–and she got the 100,000+ signatures needed to take this issue to Parliament.  She hopes bring attention to unequal standards for women in the workplace, and I sincerely hope that this issue effects changes in attitudes toward gender equality and feminism not only in England, but around the world as well.

Like I mentioned above, I’ve never had a dress code this strict, but I can imagine that so many other women have to contend with sexist clothing rules like the one Nicola fought against.  And I’m not just talking about codes in office settings–there is a plethora of restrictions on what women can and cannot wear at school, as waitresses, as cheerleaders, etc.  God forbid you reveal your shoulder or a little cleavage.

I get that at some point, we do need to have guidelines for dress in certain settings, but why does women’s clothing have to be so micromanaged?  I mean, really.  Shoes?  Give me a break.  Can’t we all please judge women on their merit and not how nice their legs look in a pair of heels?