Women Are Expected To Wear Makeup To Work?

It’s clear that many women are pressured into wearing makeup at work. For some women, this pressure is explicit and comes from management, co-workers or customers. For example, Alex, 27, was working on the children’s floor of a popular clothing store when her manager told her that she “hoped she could start wearing makeup”.

Alex was stunned – she had also consistently hit her sales goals and never received a customer complaint, plus she always dressed in the clothing sold in store, as required, and wore her hair pulled back in a tidy ponytail. She was confused when her manager said people “wouldn’t want to ask her for fashion advice if they weren’t convinced by how she looked” because she was stationed on the children’s floor. She was also earning minimum wage and became concerned about how she was going to afford the “eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush and lip gloss” that her manager suggested she start with.

Makeup is a significant cost for women, especially those on the lower end of the earning scale. A survey by SkinStore found that women walk around with an average of $8 worth of makeup and skincare products on their faces per day, which works out to a whopping $300,000 during their lifetimes. This means that, for women who are earning minimum wage, more than an hour of the work day simply covers the cost of looking acceptable enough to be there in the first place -- according to our strictly gendered beauty standards, of course.

After the winter season at the clothing store was over, Alex was told her contract wouldn’t be renewed. “I had a feeling I wouldn't be asked to stay on,” she said. “My manager came over and asked if he could talk with me on a walk around the mall, and I said okay. He told me that they wouldn’t be extending my contract. He said that I was a great employee and that I could definitely apply next summer, but that I'd have to dress better to represent the store and that I should consider this my ‘wake-up call’. Meanwhile, he's wearing a T-shirt and jeans.”
“When it happened, I felt like a mixture of the embodiment of the eye-roll emoji and resignation,” she said. “Like, well this was inevitable and here it is.”

Women who work in service roles are particularly susceptible to the pressure to wear makeup — sometimes this takes the form of unofficial requests by managers, hedged as “looking presentable” or “representing the company”. For example, Victoria, 32, was working as a concierge at a luxury apartment building where she was given a copy of the company dress code, which did not mention hair or makeup. However, the women in the office started to receive group texts from their manager telling them they needed a more "polished" appearance.

“On one occasion, I didn't wear eye makeup because my allergies were very bad, and I was told I was letting my uniform slip,” she said. “Most of the comments my manager made were vague and passive-aggressive, but still managed to communicate the message that, until I looked like a Fox News anchor, my appearance was unacceptable.”

Allure also heard from women working retail and hospitality roles who faced explicit requirements to wear makeup on the job. Katie, 28, worked at a well-known skin-care retailer, which had a policy for female employees to wear five to seven pieces of “visible” make-up from the company’s line — neutral makeup was not encouraged. “It’s a hard thing to do when you’re working part time with no guarantee of hours — a common happening, as only managers are hired with full-time benefits — to invest approximately $80 (after discounts) on makeup that I didn't wear outside of the store,” she explained. “Some weeks there were suggested or required make-up looks, and I was fairly regularly called out for not complying with guidelines.”

“The idea of spending an hour getting ready to go to a four hour shift made me resentful,” she added, “but, more than anything it was the guilt: the guilt that I didn't have a 14-step regime at night, or look pin-up ready, or that my eyebrows didn't match because I wanted five more minutes in bed. I faced more body confidence issues working there than any other job I'd previously had.”

Jordan, 22, worked at a restaurant and bar and faced similar rules. “The requirements came from both managers and the handbooks we were all given upon being hired,” she explained. “The specific language in the dress code was "date-ready makeup". For most of us, that entails full foundation, lipstick, eyeliner, mascara, etc. Three out of five of the management staff are women and they will routinely correct employees not adhering to this mostly subjective standard.”

“If I would like to come to work with significantly less makeup on, I would receive a disciplinary conversation from one of the female managers,” she continued. “When the management doesn't like how you look or act, they make a point of punishing you indirectly. They will give you a section with smaller tables, cut you from the rotation early, not allow you closing or opening shifts, and so on. This kind of punishment takes money directly out of your pocket, as the bulk of our income comes from tips. Losing opportunities to make money this way adds up over time. Of course, the cost of purchasing makeup certainly impacts us all financially as well.”

Unsurprising or not, men are not similarly obliged to cover the dark circles under their eyes or flush out their cheeks with powdered blush – let alone wear a full “date-ready” face of makeup – and many women report a double standard in their companies’ presentation requirements. As Alex mentioned, “the guys on the men’s floor walked around with their boxers showing, and put zero effort into their looks. It doesn't make sense.”

Sarah, 30, worked in the tech sector, and had a similar experience of this double standard. “The guys are regularly in hoodies and jeans — sometimes even bare feet,” she explains. “And it's okay, because they're genius developers or whatever, so being completely unprofessional in a number of ways is tolerated. I think it's very similar in the creative sector: women and/or PoC are expected to be polished as hell, but white male creatives are seen as endearingly scruffy.”

Sarah could never get away with the “endearingly scruffy” thing, not just because she’s a woman, but also because of her size. “There's also a layer somewhere around being a fat woman and feeling like I don't have the option of looking casual at work because fat women are read as lazy or sloppy unless they're hyper-feminine and hyper-polished.” Sarah was often told she “looked tired” or asked if she was okay if she skipped wearing makeup at work.

It’s acceptable for companies to have dress codes to ensure their employees are presenting a professional image, but when women are pressured into wearing makeup, there’s a clear, gendered double standard at play. There’s nothing inherently sloppy or unpolished about an unmade-up face, and the fact that women are told they look tired or ill when they don’t wear makeup shows how deeply so many of us have absorbed the idea that women should have brightly-colored lips and cheeks, eyes defined with liner and mascara, and a blemish-free (or blemish-concealed) even complexion — while men can simply splash some water on their faces and walk out the door.
Whether it’s an explicit dictate or one communicated through passive-aggressive jabs by managers or customers, the pressure for women to wear makeup at work has a real financial and emotional cost. It’s yet another one of the exhausting requirements women face to be beautiful above all else, and because it happens in the workplace, it’s essentially unavoidable.

Source: www.allure.com

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