My take on ‘high heel-gate’

By Jane Sunley, best-selling business author and Chairman + Founder of Purple Cubed

There’s a story making headlines this week about the Temp worker sent home unpaid from PwC ‘for not wearing high heels’. Were reception provider, Portico, being ‘sexist’ or is it more to do with their dress code ie attempting to ensure their employees are appropriately kitted out; stylish and looking serious about being at work in a ‘suited and booted’ City firm?

The issue here is not the height of the heel but the type of shoe.  If you pitch up to work in £7.99 ballet pumps (yes, I own a pair and am happy to wear them in the right context), they tend to sag and quickly look as if you forgot to change out of your house slippers.  It’s a simple fact that this just doesn’t portray the same image as a well-structured and polished pair of smart leather pumps or loafers.

Organisations should, therefore, review this aspect of their brand guidelines to ensure they’re not confusing ‘flat’ with ‘scruffy’.

I’ve always worn heels to work – I’m not talking teetering around on towering stilettos but stylish, smart shoes that make me feel more confident and in control.  Even women I know who really don’t like wearing heels, still do so when they want to emphasise their power and presence. Perhaps they feel that the increased height and adjusted posture enhances both stature and status? Power women like Sheryl Sandberg, who was pictured on the cover of Time magazine in red killer heels, appear unafraid to show off their femininity in this way. It’s therefore not much of a leap for people to associate power and success with heel wearing. 

As I wrote in ‘It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer’ (available at Amazon), this is about personal impact and presence. It makes sense to think about what impression you want to give and how you can create it. It’s a sad fact of life that people do make judgements on the way people dress for work. Until that eventually changes, you might have to wise up to this fact and act accordingly.

Whilst I, a non-millennial and short girl, wouldn’t consider going to a business meeting in flats, it’s a matter of personal choice…


Jane Sunley is a best-selling business author and Chairman + Founder of Purple Cubed. Her latest title ‘The People Formula – 12 Steps to Productive, Profitable, Performing Business is (available at Amazon)

2016-05-12T09:28:02+00:00 May 12th, 2016|