Bosses are telling female staff to dress “sexier” and wear make-up for video calls, new research has found.
This is according to a survey by employment law specialists. Slater and Gordon, which found that over 35% of UK women have experienced at least one sexist workplace demand since the lockdown started in March.
It was hoped that HR departments would see a dramatic decline in reports of sexist behaviour as offices closed down across the country. But new research by the firm shows sexism has instead found “new and insidious ways to thrive online”.
The most common ways men and women in positions of power justified “lurid comments” about dress included saying it would “help to win new business” (41%), saying it was important to “look nicer for the team” (41%) and saying it would be more “pleasing to a client” (38%).
Nearly 40% of women said these demands were targeted at them or other women in their teams, rather than equally with male peers, leaving them feeling “objectified, demoralised and self-conscious about their appearance”.
Some 60% of women didn’t report the requests to dress more provocatively to HR. A quarter agreed to boost their beauty regime 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.”
She added: “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.”