By Claire Zillman
January 26, 2017

Last year, there was quite the hubbub when a temp worker named Nicola Thorp was sent home without pay from a scheduled receptionist job after refusing to wear shoes with a high heel. She said her employer, the Portico temp agency, had insisted that high heels were part of proper “female grooming,” and that it argued that Thorp had signed its “appearance guidelines.”

The incident went viral and prompted a discussion about whether employers could force women to spend their days teetering on stilettos. At the time, Anna Birtwistle, a partner at employment firm CM Murray in London, told me that the legality of mandatory high heels was murky. “There is no written statutory law that deals with dress codes per se,” she said. Employers generally have the right to enforce dress codes at work if it’s a “reasonable request,” she said.

Some members of the U.K. Parliament sought to clear up that ambiguity yesterday. They issued a report that said dress codes like the one Thorp was subjected to are unlawful but remain widespread. It urged the government to level heavier penalties against employers that violate the law in an effort to increase compliance. “At present, such penalties are not sufficient deterrent,” the report says.

A petition Thorp started after being sent home is what prompted the MPs’ inquiry. “The current system favors the employer, and is failing employees,” Thorp said yesterday. “It is crucial that the law is amended so that gender-neutral dress codes become the norm so that they do not exacerbate discrimination against the LGBTQ communities and those who do not conform to gender stereotypes.”

@clairezillman


EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Not banking on it
Megan Butler, the head of supervision for the Financial Conduct Authority, had some harsh words for the banking industry on Tuesday. She said it’s rare to talk to an investment bank or business head who isn’t a white male, and she doesn’t expect the U.K. to see a female CEO at a major bank for at least five years. “I’ve increasingly come to find that a little bit difficult to take.”
Bloomberg
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Rough spot for Raggi
Rome’s first-ever female mayor Virginia Raggi has said that prosecutors have summoned her for questioning as part of a corruption probe into one of her confidants. The inquiry involves the appointment of Renato Marra as head of tourism for the city. Marra is the brother of Raffaele Marra, who was arrested on suspicion of bribe-taking in December. “I am not worried. I have complete faith in the judiciary as always,” Raggi said.
Deutsche Welle
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Put it in writing
U.K. PM Theresa May bowed to pressure from Labour, Scottish nationalists, and MPs from her own party in announcing she will publish a “white paper” detailing the government’s plans for Brexit. The Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday requiring May to obtain parliamentary approval before triggering Brexit emboldened those calling for more specifics. Downing Street had argued that the speech May gave last week provided enough clarity.
Financial Times

 


THE AMERICAS

Voted most popular
President Donald Trump entered office with historically low approval ratings, but the public has a higher opinion of other members of his family. According to a Morning Consult and Politico poll of 1,992 registered U.S. voters, 47% have a positive view of First Lady Melania, compared to 32% who don’t. Meanwhile, 49% of respondents have a favorable view of First Daughter Ivanka, versus 30% who don’t.
Fortune
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Ugly behavior
Nebraska State Sen. Bill Kintner resigned yesterday after retweeting a message that implied that participants in the Women’s March on Washington were too unattractive to be sexually assaulted. He stepped down about an hour before his fellow lawmakers were scheduled to debate whether he should be expelled from the body.
Fortune
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Out of fashion
The sales slump at Gap Inc.-owned Banana Republic has claimed its latest victim: the brand’s president Andi Owen. Like its parent company, Banana Republic has been working to change its manufacturing model to speed up the time it takes to get from concept to store shelf. But that and other efforts have not caught on; in Owen’s 24-month watch, sales at stores open at least a year fell 21 times.
Fortune

ASIA-PACIFIC

Limit two
China is expected to keep its two-child policy after its cabinet unveiled a plan outlining impending shifts in the nation’s demographics. It projects low birth rates and a rapidly aging population, but says it would stick to a policy of letting families have at most two children. One expert said the decision is likely due to constraints on the environment and services like education and medical care.
Wall Street Journal
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Detective work
Jennifer Byrne, a molecular oncologist and University of Sydney academic, turned into a science sleuth when she identified research fraud in dozens of papers published in scientific journals. The papers all featured uncanny similarities, flaws, and mismatched data by independent researchers in China. She published her findings in Scientometrics. “Science runs on brainpower and funding, but also trust,” she said. 
Sydney Morning Herald

IN BRIEF

At the Australian Open, Venus Williams will face sister Serena in her first Grand Slam final since 2009.
Sports Illustrated
St. Andrews women members still have no changing room in main clubhouse
Guardian
Did IUD insertions spike after Trump’s election? A big new data set says yes
Vox
Inside Meghan Markle’s empowering trip to India for women and girls
People
The Dutch government is countering Trump with its own abortion fund
CNBC
Alexandra Shulman is stepping down as editor-in-chief of ‘British Vogue’
Business of Fashion
Comedian Chelsea Handler is under fire for saying Melania Trump ‘can barely speak English’
Fortune

PARTING WORDS

"You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you."
- --Actress Mary Tyler Moore, who's credited with bringing the modern woman to TV. She died yesterday at age 80.

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