Women told to dress ‘sexier’ and ‘look nicer’ when working from home

Offices may be closed but workplace sexism is still thriving – with women being told to dress “sexier” and wear make up for video calls, according to a new survey.

The figures from employment law firm Slater and Gordon showed 35% of women had experienced at least one sexist workplace demand since the coronavirus lockdown started in March.

Reasons given for suggesting how employees should dress included saying it would “help to win new business” or that it was important to “look nicer for the team”.

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The survey questioned 2,000 people who are normally based in offices but have been working from home during the lockdown.

“It was hoped that HR [human resources] departments would see a dramatic decline in reports of sexist behaviour as offices closed down across the country,” the report said.

However, it added, the survey showed that “sexism has instead found new and insidious ways to thrive online”.

It found 34% of women were asked to wear more make-up or work on their hair while 27% were told they should “dress more sexy or provocatively”.

The report found nearly 40% said demands about their appearance were targeted at them or other women in their teams, rather than equally with male colleagues.

It added that 60% did not report the requests to dress more provocatively to HR.

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.

“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.”

Siobhan Endean, national officer for equalities at trade union Unite, said: “Far too many women still face sexism at work in today’s society.

“It may be that during the coronavirus lockdown, those who hold these repugnant and outdated views have been emboldened to express them more openly because they can hide behind a computer screen.”