Eliminating Gender Defining Dress Codes in the Workplace

23/05/2016 11:50

Employers should not be imposing dress codes that are sexualised in nature or which force women to wear feminine attire. People should only have a required uniform if it directly relates to their job. For example, a doctor may be required to wear scrubs, or a factory worker could be required to wear certain safety attire.

Recently, the Price Waterhouse Cooper case of a woman being forced to wear heels to work caused an outrage in the media. Prior to this, the most disturbing cases I had heard of emerged from Hooters, the American chain of restaurants that requires the waitresses to dress in provocative, skimpy outfits. The one that resembled the PWC heels case most closely was the case of a Hooters waitress who experienced weight discrimination by her employer. She sued for wrongful dismissal because she had been fired for gaining weight.

Similar to the PWC case, in which the employer claimed that the women were encouraged to wear heels in order to maintain the professional tone of the companies hiring them, the Hooters executives made similar claims. Hooters claimed that an appearance standard was crucial for the waitresses work at the restaurant chain.

What is the fundamental issue in both of these cases? The women are being forced to wear certain outfits to work because their employers are claiming that the dress code directly relates to their job requirements. I would argue, however, that in both cases, the women's outfits are not relevant to their functions as secretaries or waitresses.

We need to eliminate dress codes that are being imposed by employers to emphasize gender differences because they directly contradict the progress we have made with gender equality in the workplace. My point of view is that people should have the freedom to dress however they desire. Employers should be able to provide guidelines for workplace attire, but they should not be able to impose gender specific rules on their staff.

In the future, the progress for women in the workplace will be stymied by these type of dress codes. We should eliminate all requirements that relate to sexualising women further, which includes makeup, jewelry, skirts and high heels. I hope that women can come together and fight against this discrimination. We need to recognise the damage caused by imposing rules that require women to accentuate their gender.

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