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Sent Sexy Clubwear Home for Not Wearing Heels, She Ignited a British Rebellion
Photo Wholesale Babydoll Lingerie Nicola Thorp, holding a pair of flat shoes deemed inappropriate by her temp supervisor, went on a British morning television show Wednesday. She prompted lawmakers to take up her complaint about dress codes unfair to women. Credit Rex Features, via Associated Press LONDON — When Nicola Thorp reported to work awhile back as a temporary receptionist in the financial center here, she was shocked when her temp supervisor said her flat shoes were unacceptable. She would need to get herself shoes with heels at least two inches high.
When she refused, she was sent home from the accounting firm PwC without pay. But that was not the end of it. Five months later, Ms. Thorp, an actress originally from the northern seaside city of Blackpool, started a petition calling for a law that would make sure no company could ever again demand that a woman wear heels to work.
The petition garnered more than 150,000 signatures, helped spur a popular backlash — dozens of professional women posted photographs of themselves on Twitter defiantly wearing flats — and prompted an inquiry overseen by two parliamentary committees.
On Wednesday, more than two years after Ms. Thorp, qwqfdvdsadf now 28, strode into that office in her chic but sensible black flats, the committees released a report concluding that Portico, the outsourcing firm that had insisted she wear high heels, had broken the law. It added that existing law needed to be toughened to overcome outmoded and sexist workplace codes.
Continue reading the main storyDuring the investigation, the committees received hundreds of complaints from women whose companies had demanded that they “dye their hair blonde,” “wear revealing outfits” or “constantly reapply makeup.”
Ms. Thorp lauded the inquiry’s conclusion, saying it was all the more imperative in the Trump era, when men around the world had a role model in the White House who had boasted about behaving badly toward women.
“I refused to work for a company that expected women to wear makeup, heels and a skirt. This is unacceptable in 2017,” she said. “People say sexism is not an issue anymore. 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.”
Ms. Thorp said her heel revolt, while a protest against sexism and discrimination, was also a matter of public health given the toll that high heels take on women’s feet. “The company expected me to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms,” she said. “I told them that I just wouldn’t be able to do that in heels.”
Portico on Wednesday said it had rewritten its code almost immediately after the issue was raised by Ms. Thorp, dropping the heel requirement, among others. Its old code had warned employees against such things as greasy or highly gelled hair or wearing flowers as accessories. It had also called for heel height to be two to four inches and for makeup to be “worn at all times” and “regularly reapplied,” with a minimum of lipstick, mascara and eye shadow.
PwC stressed that the dress code required by Portico in December 2015 was Portico’s policy and had been enforced by a Portico supervisor. Nevertheless, it said it regretted that the inquiry was instigated by an incident at its offices, and it remained committed to equality at the workplace.
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But legal experts and women’s advocates say social and cultural conventions can be harder to change. When Prime Minister Theresa May was photographed recently wearing a $1,250 pair of “desert khaki” leather pants, she was criticized as being excessive and out of touch, even as her defenders argued that no one talked about Mr. Trump’s far more expensive Brioni suits.
Nevertheless, before she entered No. 10 Downing Street, Mrs. May herself may have played a role in reinforcing gender stereotypes. When she was the minister for women and equality in 2011, she said that “traditional gender-based workplace dress codes” had not held her back and argued that they encouraged “a sense of professionalism” in the workplace.
Continue reading the main storyIn a sign of the challenges ahead, the British television host Piers Morgan inspired a Twitter storm on Wednesday when he insisted during an interview with Ms. Thorp that it was not unreasonable to expect a receptionist to wear stiletto heels. “Get Piers in Heels,” roared The Sun’s headline.
Britain’s 2010 Equality Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender, age or sexual orientation. But women’s advocates and legal experts said the law was unevenly applied.
Emma Birkett, who works in retail, told the inquiry that her company encouraged her and her female colleagues to wear shorter skirts and unbutton more buttons on their blouses during Christmastime, “when a higher proportion of male shoppers was anticipated.” Ruth Campion, a flight attendant, testified that she felt “prostituted” when ordered to wear heels, skirts and makeup.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, a leading women’s rights organization in London that traces its roots to 1866, said sexist dress codes that objectified women or men had no place in the modern workplace. She noted that it took until last January for British Airways to allow female cabin crew members to wear trousers. She also lamented that it cost about $1,500 in Britain for a person to bring a case before an employment tribunal, and that even without this financial constraint, “some women don’t want to be seen as troublemakers or risk losing their jobs.”
“Employers need to focus on what drives productivity and enables their staff to feel part of a team,” she said, adding, “It isn’t a pair of high heels.”
Correction: February 16, 2017 Because of an editing error, a picture caption on Jan. 26 with an article about a report by two British parliamentary committees recommending that laws against sexist workplace dress codes be strengthened referred incorrectly, in some editions, to the flat shoes held by Nicola Thorp, an actress who started a petition after being told she had to wear heels for a temp job. Her employer had deemed the shoes inappropriate, not appropriate.