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Editorial: Kick mandatory high heels and sexist dress codes to the curb

High heels
High heels

Surely the most important elements of dining out are good food, plated attractively and brought to your table by a courteous server.

Yet, high heels, lipstick, tight blouses and short skirts are often required attire for female employees of restaurants and bars.

Different rules for dress codes often apply to women. Human rights legislation says those requirements are discriminatory.

So why are we even having this discussion in 2017?

The governments of British Columbia and Ontario are taking steps to eliminate sexualized dress codes. Shouldn’t all provinces follow their lead?

Why should women suffer debilitating pain trying to manoeuvre around crowded rooms with heavy trays of food or drink while wearing high heels?

According to Canada’s human rights code, employers cannot discriminate against individuals based on their sex. So why is it still happening?

Additional attention became focused on this issue when a British woman was told her flat shoes were unacceptable at her London finance firm. Britain’s Parliament has just debated banning mandatory workplace high heels in response to a petition from that employee, who was sent home without pay. She called workplace dress codes “outdated and sexist.” Her petition gathered more than 150,000 signatures, making it eligible for debate in Parliament.

Women who have challenged such outdated rules have been told they’d have plenty of time to rest their feet if they were unemployed.

It gets worse. The British firm’s dress code also specified that female employees wear non-opaque tights, have hair with “no visible roots,” wear “regularly re-applied” makeup, and shoes with a heel between five and 10 centimetres high. It sends the message that appearance has greater value than skills or experience.

Let’s put the flat shoe on the other fallen-arch foot. Can you imagine companies forcing male employees to use Grecian Formula until age 50, to sport beards of stubble-length only, have a stomach that doesn’t protrude more than 7.5 cm outside their belt buckles, with a strict size limit on love handles and the length of neckties?

British lawmakers are now telling employers to stop making women wear high heels as part of corporate dress codes, and action is being promised against corporate codes that apply to women but not to men.

This mindset is hard to change because many workers still feel that companies are entitled to impose dress codes, such as suits and ties for men; but surely mandatory high heels for women goes too far.

The good news is that the British firm that caused the uproar has amended its policy to adopt a gender-neutral dress code and to allow female workers to wear flat shoes if they prefer.

In 2017, no one should tell a woman how she should dress. It’s time for women to put their foot down — in stilettos or flats, as they so choose.

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