Wear make-up and dress ‘sexy’ for video calls women told by bosses
Female employees working from home during the lockdown pandemic have been told to dress “sexier” and wear make-up for video calls by their bosses, new research suggests.
A third of women say they’ve endured at least one sexist workplace demand since lockdown forced home-working on those who were able in March.
That’s according to employment law firm Slater and Gordon.
Their research says that bosses have accounted for comments about women’s dress by saying it would “help to win new business”, it’s important to “look nicer for the team” and “it would be more pleasing to a client”, according to the study.
Sexism was hoped to have dropped off as offices closed down, says the firm – but instead, has now found “new and insidious” ways to thrive online.
Around two out of five women have revealed that they or women in their teams have been targeted by inappropriate demands which left them them feeling “objectified, demoralised and self-conscious” about their appearance – rather than being treated equally with male employees.
Most of the women who were told to dress more provocatively did not report their boss to their human resources (HR) department.
One in four, according to the research, actually agreed to change the way they looked for fear of a negative impact on their career.
Slater and Gordon employment lawyer Danielle Parsons said: “It is categorically wrong for a manager or anyone in a position of power to suggest, even politely, for a woman to be more sexually appealing in the workplace.
“This is a powerful form of coercion which makes women feel as if they must adhere to the manager’s request and be more visually pleasing to be successful at their job. This is demeaning to women.
“It’s extremely disappointing that we are still having these conversations, particularly during this time when women are juggling a multitude of roles from home, and may be also struggling with childcare responsibilities.
“This type of archaic behaviour has no place in the modern working world.
Many claim they have been told to wear make up on a Zoom call
“Requests of this nature are discrimination and unlawful where male counterparts aren’t treated in this way, or where such unwanted requests create a humiliating or degrading environment for women.”
One in three women surveyed said they were asked to wear more make-up or work on their hair, and almost as many were asked to dress more sexily or provocatively.
Slater and Gordon urged women to report any demands to change their appearance to their HR department, or seek legal advice.
The company surveyed 2,000 men and women.
Sue Harris, legal director of the GMB union, said: “The way women are treated in our society is absolutely reflected in the findings of this poll.
“Nobody ever considers what a man looks like or suggests he change appearance for the purposes of a team call.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Sexism and harassment at work has a huge impact on women’s lives, even during a pandemic.
“Trade union reps can help members who experience it, but we need better laws to stop it happening in the first place.
“Ministers should strengthen the law by giving employers a legal duty to prevent sexual harassment at work. This would help put an end to toxic workplaces where sexism and harassment are an everyday experience for women.”