A British Airways air hostess said she was made to feel like a “prostitute” after her employer made her wear make-up and high heels.
Ruth Campion told MPs that cabin crew were forced to re-apply make-up, avoid wearing ‘frumpy’ cardigans and flatten their hair in order to appear sexier, at an inquiry into dress codes at work.
The joint petitions and women and equalities committee were gathered to listen to evidence from women who have experienced dress code discrimination after a petition calling for a legal ban on high heels as mandatory dress at work reached over 100,000 signatures.
Speaking to the committee Miss Campion said: “It made me feel extremely uncomfortable… For an employer to tell me that I need to do that in order for the business to have a certain image, it made me feel akin to being prostituted.
“A couple of times I got told to re-apply my lipstick… I wasn’t wearing enough make-up.”
Miss Campion claimed that one manager carried hair spray around in order to ensure that cabin crew had flat, non-frizzy, hair. Talking about a time when one of her managers told her that her hair was ‘too fluffy like a cloud’ she said: “I don’t understand how that affects the service you give on an airline.”
Emma Birkett, a sales assistant, also gave evidence at the inquiry. She said: “In retail, I was actively encouraged at Christmas time to wear shorter skirts and unbutton a blouse a little…
“We were encouraged… to flirt a little to try and encourage the gentleman customer to spend a little more. I felt offended… I could use my skills and product knowledge to do that.”
The petition was set up by Nicola Thorp, 27, who had experienced dress code discrimination when she went to work at PriceWaterhouseCoopers as a receptionist.
She was sent home after she arrived at the London accountant’s office in flat black business shoes and refused to go out and buy heels.