Is There More To The ‘High Heels At Work’ Argument Than Just Our Footwear?

Posted On 23 May 2016

Is There More To The ‘High Heels At Work’ Argument Than Just Our Footwear?

23 May 2016
Is There More To The ‘High Heels At Work’ Argument Than Just Our Footwear?

Candidate Resource, Employer Resource, News & Events, On The Job

Is There More To The ‘High Heels At Work’ Argument Than Just Our Footwear?

Gender equality is often on the minds of the EST10 team, and why wouldn’t it be? We like to think of ourselves as champions of women in the workplace. We love to cheer on our fellow working females and believe we deserve equal footing in all workplaces.

The recent case of UK receptionist Nicola Thorpe being sent home from work for not wearing heels was a hot topic in our office. We love to dress up for work but should we be required to? As this conversation has played out in the media it has also fueled criticism as to the never-forgotten topic of equal pay for women. It had lead us to ask; are these arguments one and the same? Should women have different expectations of them in the workplace – whether those expectations are about footwear or a different level of pay to their male counterparts?

According to the Australian Government’s Gender Pay Gap Statistic Report from March 2016, the average full-time gender pay gap between men and women is 17.3%. Although this disparity is often put down to societal perspective (much like women’s need to wear heels to the office?), perhaps women are being held back on the pay scale by their life choices.

Could it be that women are making decisions – consciously or not – that are holding them back financially as well as preventing them from obtaining equal standing in their career?

For example, one of the major choices taken on by women is the study they select while attending university. The field chosen by women can negatively impact their representation in the workforce as well as their ability to earn at a comparable level to their male counterparts. The annual ACS report released in April 2016, prepared by Deloitte Access Economics, found that women comprise only 28 per cent of ICT workers in Australia, highlighting the disparity between the number of men and women in fields of technology and science. Subsequently, women are underrepresented in these fields experiencing great growth and financial reward in our increasingly technological age.

Perhaps these career choices come down to women favoring careers that blend more easily with the role of motherhood or simply come down to women preferring to work in other industries.

Gender Equality in Australia – key facts
  • Women and girls make up just over half (50.2 per cent) of the Australian population.
  • While women comprise roughly 46 per cent of all employees in Australia, they take home on average $283.20 less than men each week (full-time adult ordinary time earnings).
  • The national gender “pay gap” has remained stuck between 15 per cent and 18 per cent for the past two decades.
  • Australian women account for 92 per cent of primary carers for children with disabilities, 70 per cent of primary carers for parents and 52 per cent of primary carers for partners.
  • In 2013, Australia was ranked 24th on a global index measuring gender equality, slipping from a high point of 15th in 2006.

Is it possible that society has been programmed to believe that men should receive a higher salary simply because history has proven this to be the case? In the same manner, are women expected to wear heels to work just because they always have been in the past? Perhaps women don’t aim as high as men when salary expectations come into play. Maybe we haven’t put our foot down when it comes to expectations placed on our working life, right down to the shoes on our feet. Is it time we do both?