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Office dress code

On the occasion of the celebration of International Women’s Day last March 8, reports about the discriminatory treatment of women in job opportunities, promotion and professional development received prominent treatment in the media.

There was news about the plan of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to take a second look at its laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of gender, age or sexual orientation.

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This time, the issue relates to the requirement of some British companies to their female employees to wear high heels, dye their hair blonde, wear nail polish or constantly reapply makeup while at work.

For some British employers, these grooming rules will make their female personnel look good to their customers or clients and, in the process, help generate business.

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There was reportedly an instance when a woman assigned to do retail work was asked by her supervisor to unbutton her blouse during the Christmas season to increase sales!

Too bad, the kind of product that she was selling was not mentioned in the story so there was no way of finding the relation of her state of undress to the product’s saleability.

In the local scene, the dress code in offices or work premises is determined by the nature of the business of the employer, the employee’s work assignment and, sometimes, the time of the year.

For companies engaged in businesses that require a lot of interaction with the public, e.g., sale of retail products, it is essential the front line employees be well-groomed or pleasant to look at and talk to.

Although they do not have to wear the latest in fashion or personal accessories, they should at least wear clothes that fit their age or “match” the product or services they are promoting.

For female employees, regardless of their work assignment, it’s considered de rigueur for them to use a reasonable amount of makeup that conforms to their facial composition.

On account of the country’s hot and humid climate, most local companies are liberal in their office dress code. In the absence of an office uniform, the rule of thumb is, it should be decent-looking and enables the employee to comfortably perform his assigned tasks.

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Despite the heat and humidity, however, some people cannot do without the suit-and-tie, for men, and blouse and coat, for women, in their professional or business activities.

It is amusing to see lawyers in two-piece (sometimes three) suits inside our crowded, cramped and poorly ventilated courtrooms. They have to keep the impression that the heat does not bother them even if beneath their woolen suit, they’re releasing buckets of unwanted body fluid.

The discomfort is a small price to pay for maintaining an appearance of professionalism and elegance that justify charging the client high appearance fees, regardless of whether the hearing pushes through or is postponed for any reason.

A similar clothes-make-a-person attitude is also evident in business executives or sales personnel who want to make a good impression on the person they want to do business with.

But dressing down, or deliberately wearing clothes that give the impression of simplicity or frugality, is the name of the game for companies whose target market are the C, D and E sectors of our society. Less is considered more because it fits the character of the social level of their prospective customers.

Signature or classy clothes may turn off the people in these social strata as they may give the impression that the products or services being sold are priced high to defray the costs of the company’s expensive tastes.

Research has shown that part of the reason for the preference of small scale entrepreneurs to deal with informal lenders, rather than the banks, is because they are intimidated by smartly-dressed bank tellers.

So what are the chances of Filipino female employees complaining about being required by their employers to wear high heels, put nail polish or reapply makeup while at work?

Far-fetched, if not nil, because most Filipino women in the workplace are conscious about their looks in the presence of other people. It’s not vanity, but simply high self-esteem.

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TAGS: international women’s day, job, Office dress code
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