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