Two weeks ago, Members of Parliament in UK debated on imposing a ban on mandatory workplace high heels. Last week, the premier of British Columbia, Canada pledged to end the same rule for women in the workplace. Isn’t it quite astonishing that such a rule still exists despite the forward steps women have made in the corporate world? And it’s not just about high heels. The dress code for women outlined by employers is quite elaborate and detailed. There are specific rules that insist on wearing non-opaque tights, have hair with “no visible roots,” and maintain “regularly re-applied” makeup. All this is specified in the dress code of a well-established organization in a progressive society. Makes you wonder what we’ll uncover if we were to take a peek at the dress codes of companies in emerging markets? And why is it that there are such needless specifics targeted towards women?
In the past two years, there’s been much global debate highlighting the issue of remuneration and pay rates for women and how it’s skewed against them. Unfortunately, there are far more issues for the world to deal with in regards to treating women fairly in the workplace. Sure, compensation issues are vital to address considering how significant the pay gap is for both genders working in the same capacity. Still, sexist, outdated and needless dress codes have a huge nuisance factor. Having dress codes and other rules that really serve no fundamental purpose hampers the ability for individuals to focus on what’s really important – succeeding at the workplace. These are needless distractions that should be rid off.
The Other Issues Women Face
Another issue that’s on the rise is “trolling”. A research conducted by Pew Research Center found that one in four women are tormented online. We’ve heard of stories where female journalists and celebrities have been victims of trolls, but there’s a high likelihood that there are many more cases we don’t hear of, particularly in emerging markets where most women wouldn’t report it out of fear of embarrassment. While social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are great at connecting the world, for someone with ill intentions (trolls) they can be the tools to prowl and attack.
Let’s not forget how the media seems to have a knack for demonizing women leaders. From prominent Silicon Valley CEOs like Marissa Mayer and Elizabeth Holmes to politicians like Brazil’s former president Dilma Roussef, and most recently South Korea’s Park Geun-hye. Women have endured more scrutiny, criticism and had their mistakes more magnified than their male counterparts. It’s almost as if the media’s actively hunting for new women leaders to bring to light for everyone to shame. Currently, there are only 22 women heading Fortune 500 companies. Just imagine how many women leaders would be would come under fire if that number were higher!
Women Still Struggle to be Taken Seriously
There are far too many industries that continue to objectify women. It’s surprising that late in the 2010’s we, as a global society, haven’t evolved to be better than this. In sports, women are still employed to entertain fans and get the crowd to cheer their teams. Athletics themselves face challenges in terms of equal pay, recognition from sporting authorities and even struggle to get a chance in their chosen sport (some sporting events are still male dominated – I’m thinking motor racing like Formula 1 and Moto GP). And then you have the food and airline industry which, unfortunately, hasn’t evolved in over half a century. The number of inflight harassment cases that female flight attendants face isn’t declining. In fact, the selection criteria for flight attendant vacancies itself remains to be blatantly sexist. Sure, on the surface of it airlines may claim to be employing non-skewed and fair selection methods, but let’s not kid ourselves about the actual selection.
The world may be rapidly changing thanks to technology, though the workplace, culture and environment have quite a few leaps forward to make. It obviously is rooted to the leadership’s mindset who can influence and alter their employees’ behavior. But that alone isn’t enough. As members of society we must be willing and ready to take multiple strides forward to ensure women aren’t targeted at the workplace. It begins with us – you and me. And it ends when women are truly treated fairly.