Stepping up – what a pair of heels has taught us

13 May 2016

Equality in the workplace has come a long way since the sex discrimination act was passed in 1975, but Nicola Thorp’s petition to make it illegal for companies to require women to wear heels at work is a stark reminder about how far there is still to go. Many people in my organisation, including myself, support the sentiments behind the petition, because any form of inequality is unacceptable and I’m sorry that any individual has had a bad experience with us.

As a business that places diversity at the heart of our organisation, the fact that the debate over high heels at work was sparked by an incident while Ms Thorp was due to work at one of our offices is embarrassing. That’s why we took immediate action with the contractor that employed Ms Thorp. Put simply, such policies don’t reflect who we are.

We work together with our suppliers to make sure that they match our sustainability aspirations. But we have learnt the hard way that it is critical that the employment policies and values of our supply chain reflect our own. We are reviewing our suppliers’ employment policies in detail as a result.

We strongly believe that everyone should be allowed to be themselves at work and we are committed to promoting equality in the workplace. This isn’t lip service, this underpins our values and culture. We’ve taken bold steps to ignite change. This includes being one of the first firms to publicly report our gender pay gap, setting and publishing gender and ethnicity targets and scrapping UCAS scores as entry criteria for our graduate roles.

But all of this fades into the background if we don’t pay attention to the finer details that affect people in their daily working lives.

If we really want equality in the workplace, we need to make sure that every aspect of our business and supplier relationships have the same core values. Ms Thorp’s experience shows how important it is to ensure we achieve this for each and every interaction. But there is no excuse for not tackling it. And we will.

Watch Gaenor's video on YouTube




Excellent response. My compliments

This is much better than your initial response. My daughter has flat feet and her consultant has advised against wearing high heels.

Will you commit to letting Miss Thorp come back to her job?

Have you any comment on the Portico requirement to wear five different types of make up? It seems an excessive and dictatorial policy.

Being a part of Human Capital team from another country we are proud about this voice and glad to see how much attention you pay. "Change begins with you".

Excellent response. Humility and a commitment to improve is the only intelligent option. Well done. A sobering, and certainly not unique, experience in the downsides of outsourcing critical services.

If "Change begins with you" PwC then perhaps you could make a start by getting rid of those atrocious make up rules. Five different types of makeup my foot (excuse the pun).

Only Barbie need apply.

Yeah, blame your 'supply chain'. How hypocrite is that?

Never expected a company like PWC to be flooding every news website because of such stupid reasons. PWC going down, over and out!!!!

Thank you for your comments. Addressing the specific questions on make up, we are reviewing all aspects of our suppliers' dress codes, including make up.

It's great to know that as soon as there was a public outcry which damaged PwC's reputation, the error was noticed.

Would have been even more great if the public outcry had not been necessary.

Thank you for your reply. Excellent news about the make up policy review.

It would be good to see these reviews extend to the other subsidiary companies of Westbury Street Holdings, namely Baxter Storey, Caterlink, Holroyd Howe and Benugo.

Hopefully Mr Alastair Storey (Chairman and CEO of WSH) will ensure a total review of such dress code policies.

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