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Elements of workplace discrimination today

Our research suggests that 18% of women have felt pressured to alter their outfit/appearance, of which 77% have felt uncomfortable due to such pressure.

As a novel start-up in a poorly-researched space, we needed to validate the problems Whirli is solving. Sapio Research were fantastic partners from start to finish – creative in brainstorming angles, careful in designing the questions, and rigorous in analysing the results. The research brought a wealth of insights, backed by hard figures, for our business decision making and for us to talk about publicly in the press.

Nigel Phan

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The incident that took place with Nicola Thorpe was all over the news, being sent home from work without pay because she refused to wear, specifically 2” to 4” heels.  Which led her and everyone else to inquire how wearing heels will increase her performance at work and questioning whether similar rules apply to men? The answer is no and this can be seen as an obvious case of gender discrimination.

Thorpe opened a gateway, enabling other women to confess the issues that they’ve dealt with regarding work wear, which range from being obliged to wear a skirt when men in the same position wore jeans to wearing makeup at all times.

The out roar caused by the public and media didn’t result in the government banning such rules applied to women by companies, however they thought it fair to amend the footwear regulation under the worker’s compensation act, which considers slipping.

Similarly, there have also been problems regarding religious symbols at work, with the European Court of Justice ruling in favour of banning religious symbols which include: Hijab, Cross, Kippas and Turbans. Which again leads to the question of how banning religious symbols at work will benefit companies other than prohibiting employees from expressing or following their beliefs, or in some cases leaving work.

Such headlines prompted Sapio Research to do its own research on whether women had been affected by such rules in their workplace or whether they had ever felt uncomfortable by rules at work concerning dress code. The results have been astonishing, with women commenting that they have been: ‘asked to wear a shorter skirt and high heels’, ‘I was selling cars and the men thought I could sell more cars if I dressed sexier. The less comfortable I was the worse my sales became’, ‘being told off for having bright hair’, whilst another explains it as ‘just a horrible experience’.

Our research suggests that 18% of women have felt pressured to alter their outfit/appearance, of which 77% have felt uncomfortable due to such pressure.

It seems that women are constantly, as respondents perfectly summarise it, ‘being judged on what you wear’ and ‘being told to look better’, with numerous women stating that they feel uncomfortable at work and are left feeling ‘objectified’.

In addition, our research was conducted in both the UK and US which resulted in a country difference. Women in the US (21%) were more likely to have felt pressured to alter their appearance at work compared to women in the UK (16%). Furthermore, US women were more likely to reply ‘very uncomfortable’ (40%) when asked how this made them feel, whereas women in the UK were more likely to answer ‘quite uncomfortable’ (46%).

We probably don’t realise the extent of discrimination that women still suffer in the workplace, even in the 21st century, a time when talking and protesting about equality and feminist views is the norm.

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