Mass shoe of solidarity with receptionist sent home for wearing flats, as anti-sexists put their foot down
WOMEN made a stand against sexist dress codes yesterday by flaunting their flat shoes in solidarity with a receptionist who was sent home without pay for refusing to wear high heels at work.
Temp receptionist Nicola Thorp was told that she had to go out and buy two-to-four-inch heels by an agency hiring on behalf of financiers PriceWaterhouseCoopers in December. Ms Thorp said bosses laughed at her when she asked them if men were subject to the same rule.
The actor went on to set up a government petition against the practice this week which has received more than 126,000 signatures.
And she was backed yesterday by thousands of women who posted their footwear photos online under the popular hashtag #fawcettflatsFriday, set up by feminist charity the Fawcett Society, to show that they were hired for their skills rather than their pumps.
People refusing to toe the line included Labour MP Stella Creasy, who showed off her snakeskin-print slip-ons, and Women’s Equality Party (WEP) co-founder Catherine Mayer.
Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers said: “It’s no surprise that requiring a woman to wear stilettos at work in 2016 has fallen flat.
“A dress code should be professional. It doesn’t have to be sexist. We should focus on what enables employees to do their jobs well, as four-inch heels are not essential to drive performance.”
Ms Thorp told the BBC: “I said to them: ‘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. “I was expected to do a nine-hour shift on my feet escorting clients to meeting rooms. I said I just won’t be able to do that in heels.”
Ms Thorp’s petition demands that women should have the option to wear flat formal shoes at work and criticises the “outdated and sexist” law that allows British companies to require female members of staff to wear high heels at work. WEP party leader Sophie Walker said: “If men are not required to wear a certain type of heel to work, neither should women.”
And TUC women’s equality officer Scarlet Harris said: “A workplace policy forcing women to wear uncomfortable shoes which can cause permanent damage to feet and joints may be legal but that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.
“This case highlights the sexism inherent in many workplace dress codes. Calling for workers to dress smartly is one thing but demanding that women workers look sexy is quite another.”
Outsourcing firm Portico previously defended its decision by saying that Ms Thorp had signed a dress code agreement. But it has since made a policy U-turn after Ms Thorp’s campaign attracted publicity.
PwC released a statement on Thursday saying: “We are pleased that Portico has responded to our concerns and is updating its uniform policy with immediate effect.”