November 28th, 2008

Don’t Skirt the Issue

I was barely 20 and it was my first “real” job. After receiving the letter of appointment, I had to read a set of company rules I had to adhere to, one of which outlined the acceptable dress code for women.

Me: “I have an issue with one of the rules written here. It says here that all women should wear skirts.”
Mr. Manager: “Well, we’ve always had that rule. Just follow it.”

At that point in time, I really, really needed the job, so i didn’t argue. The problem was, I only had two office-worthy skirts then — a poorly-cut tulip skirt that made my bum look big and a frumpy brown pleated one that will make anyone‘s bum look big.

I didn’t have enough money to get a new wardrobe, so I worked out a schedule of sorts — I’d only wear skirts on days where I had to go on a meeting with the big bosses.

This went pretty well and the numerous times I got “caught with my pants on” were non-issues with the heads, all of whom were males (well, except for one lady who was rarely in the office) so after awhile, I stopped my skirt timetable altogether. Some of my longer-serving female colleagues initially questioned my brazen non-skirt-wearing attitude but then went into an “I wish I could wear trousers too” mode.

A few months after I started work there, the company appointed a new HR director. One of his first exercises was to talk to each and every employee.

Mr. HR Director: “… anything else you’d like to clarify?”
Me:”Um, there is this small thing… about wearing skirts. I don’t see why I have to conform to it.”
Mr. HR Director: “And I don’t see why you should!”

That dress code was apparently written when the company was formed in the 60s or 70s. And since no one had raised concern over it, it remained on the list 30 years later. Mr. HR Director said he’d see to the abolishment of the dress code (for both men and women) and though I didn’t really believe him then, I was quite happy to finally be able to talk to someone who wasn’t from the Dark Ages.

Weeks after that, one of my female colleagues was seen in a smart pair of slacks excitedly announcing that “it’s okay for women to wear trousers in the office now.” Well, well.

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