Female employees asked to dress ‘sexier’ for video calls

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Female employees asked to dress 'sexier' for video calls

Women are being told by their employer to dress “sexier” for video calls showing that “discriminatory tendencies and behaviours are still rife even when women are working from home.”

Research from employment law firm Slater and Gordon, found that 35 per cent of women have experienced at least one sexist request from their boss during the lockdown, with dressing in a more provocative manner during a video call being the most common.

Anita Rai, a partner at law firm JMW Solicitors, believes it is disappointing that sexism has now found its way in to a women’s house via their employer. Ms Rai said:

We know that sexism within some workplaces does still exist and it is disappointing that this has found its way into the sanctuary of women’s homes as well.

It goes without saying that any comment which references or implies that anyone should dress “sexier” (regardless of whether it is to attract new business or look nicer for the team or to please clients) is unlawful and discriminatory, and if an employer is alerted to such remarks being made, it should immediately take action to stop it. The challenge for employers is that, even more so with agile working, they are unlikely to have visibility of discriminatory comments being made in the first place, but might well be vicariously liable for them anyway.

It seems that employers make this suggestion as it “helps to win business”,”looks nicer for the team” and “it would be more pleasing to the client”.

Nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) of women who received these comments did not report it to HR. A third (33 per cent) of women found it hard to challenge their employer when making such a request. Still, under a third (32 per cent) did say they stood up to support a female colleague when she was asked to dress “sexier”.

A quarter of women said not spending more time doing their make up before a video call could have an adverse impact on their career. Almost 40 per cent, of women say these demands are always directed towards females and not men.

Danielle Parsons, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, 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.

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.

In order to obtain these results, Slater and Gordon, spoke to 2,000 UK employees, now working from home.

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  1. Employers and/or managers who do this would seem to be wholly ignorant of the law as well as being insensitive and sexist. Is it not easier to get the correct message over by simply asking people to dress smartly and to use their emotional intelligence to relate more effectively to their Zoom correspondents just in the same way as they would if they were meeting in person? After decades in business, I am astounded at the ignorance and insensitivity that abounds.

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