Dear Diversity Diva: Maybe I’m just an old-fashioned male, even though I’m not old, but I really have a problem with the increasing trend of women not wearing pantyhose with skirts and dresses when they come to work. Would it be sexist of me to mandate that my female subordinates wear pantyhose to work? — Pantyhose in a Twist
Dear Pantyhose: I’m sure that just about every woman reading this column is hoping that I say a resounding “yes” to your question and tell you that you’re sexist. And while you may be a sexist, I’m going to stick to the issue.
The issue is whether a male believes that he has the right to require a woman to encase parts of her body in an uncomfortable material that restricts movement and comfort. Granted, wearing pantyhose can be an effective prophylactic against looking too casual and not sufficiently professional.
But for the average woman who has to wear nylons eight to 10 hours a day, every day, even when the humidity is nearing triple digits, it can seem like an antiquated and rigid expectation that serves no real purpose other than when specific circumstances require that degree of custom.
Deep down, as a boss, you know whether this requirement you have for your female employees is fair or not. For example, if the women are dealing with the public in a formal work environment, then it might be a legitimate expectation to spell out in your company handbook what expectations of attire are.
But if women throughout the organization in other similar departments are walking their bare legs up and down the hallway, maybe you’re the one who has expectations out of sync with your work environment and with changing times.
Also, going back to the sexist question, maybe you do need to ask yourself if you’re being evenhanded in how you expect your male employees to dress compared to the women. I mean if the women have to wear nylons while men frequently come to work without ties or in khakis and polo-type shirts, maybe you do have some double standards that need re-examining.
When it’s all said and done, if you’re a buttoned-up, consistently dapper guy yourself, it could just be that you’re trying to reinstitute decorum and modesty in the workplace, which some would consider admirable.
I still say that you should consider how it would feel to spend just one full workday zipped up in plastic before seriously considering implementing a mandatory pantyhose workplace.