Her employment agency, Portico, had a dress code specifying that female workers must wear non-opaque tights, have hair with "no visible roots," wear "regularly re-applied" makeup and appear in shoes with a heel between 2 and 4 inches (5 and 10 centimeters) high. For Thorp, that was a step too far. She started an online petition, calling formal workplace dress codes "outdated and sexist." It has gathered more than 150,000 signatures, making it eligible for a debate in Parliament. Thorp told the BBC after she launched the petition that "dress codes should reflect society." "Twenty years ago, women weren't allowed to wear trousers in the same role that I'm doing now," she said. "And it's only because some women spoke up about that and said, 'We feel like we have a right to wear trousers,' that that's changed." The British government says the law already forbids companies from discriminating against women, but a report from Parliament's Women and Equalities Committee found that "discriminatory dress codes" remain commonplace in sectors including the retail and tourism industries. The committee said it had heard from hundreds of women "who told us about the pain and long-term damage caused by wearing high heels for long periods in the workplace, as well as from women who had been required to dye their hair blonde, to wear revealing outfits and to constantly reapply makeup." The College of Podiatry told the committee that women who wear high heels for long periods have "reduced balance, reduced ankle flexion and weaker muscle power in the calf" and are prone to disabling pain. Jones said that "women told us that when they raised these concerns they were belittled." One was told "she'd have plenty of time to rest her feet when she was unemployed." In London's financial district on Monday, many workers felt that companies were entitled to impose dress codes but that mandatory high heels went too far. "A lot of things are enforced, but high heels in particular because that can also be a health issue for people I think that's unnecessary," said company director Penelope Mantzaris. Banker Dan Matthews said his company expected men to wear suits and ties "and I think that's a fair request." "So I suppose it's fairly contradictory in a way, because in one respect I'm saying that we men should be required to wear a suit and tie but women shouldn't wear high heels," he said. "But I think that's just where the line happens to be at the moment." Thorp's petition has already caused one change. Portico announced last year it was amending its policy to adopt a gender-neutral dress code and to allow workers to wear flat shoes if they prefer.
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