•       35% of female workers experienced at least one sexist workplace demand since lockdown started

•       60% of female workers didn’t report inappropriate requests to HR

•       25% of female workers targeted with these comments have upped their beauty regime,  fearing a negative impact on their career

Female workers have received sexist demands from their bosses during lockdown, with some being asked to dress ‘sexier’ and wear make‐up for video calls.

More than 35% of UK women have experienced at least one sexist workplace demand since lockdown started, with many of those in relation to the way they look, according to new research from legal firm Slater & Gordon.

Some of the sexist comments women received from their managers or co‐workers were requests for them to change the way they dress or look in order to ‘help to win new business’ (41%) and that it was important to ‘look nicer for the team’ (41%) and to be more ‘pleasing to a client’ (38%). In addition to these, 34% of women were asked to wear more make‐up on and 27% were asked to dress sexy or provocatively.

Nearly 40% of women said these comments were targeted at them or other women in their teams, rather than their male peers, leaving them feeling objectified, demoralised and self‐conscious about the way they look.

Sadly, a lot of women say they found it difficult to challenge this behaviour, as a third were worried it would look like they could not take a joke if they put a complaint forward. Although some could not speak up for themselves, they were able to find their voice to defend and support their female colleagues. About 32% of women – compared to 26% of men – have called out comments during meetings they felt were inappropriate or unwelcome. The disparity between men and women’s reactions to this behaviour doesn’t stop there – 18% of men admitted they laugh off these comments directed at colleagues, whereas only 8% of women do the same.

Six in ten women did not report these requests to dress more provocatively to their HR departments at all, and 25% agreed to add to their beauty regime for fear of a negative impact on their career. A third of men and women also admit they have put up with comments about their appearance in a way they would not normally tolerate in person, because of the pandemic’s toll on the job market.