For one whole year, Australian Today Show anchor Karl Stefanovic wore the same suit and no one realized. Explaining, he said, “I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour – on how I do my job, basically. Whereas women are quite often judged on what they’re wearing or how their hair is … that’s [what I wanted to test].”
Where are we going? To appearance discrimination.
A bartender is fired because she would not tease her hair, wear lipstick or nail polish (and the court rules for the employer). A banker at Citibank sues when she is told not to wear fitted clothing because her body shape made her distracting. Also claiming appearance discrimination, a Harvard librarian took the school to court saying she was passed over for promotions because they viewed her as a “pretty girl,” not your stereotypical librarian.
While these are cases that were litigated, most are about everyday life. And that returns us to the Today show. While Karl Stefanovic can wear the same suit everyday, his co-host, Lisa Wilkinson, regularly gets email about her clothing. Told that a viewer said Wilknson’s “…outfit is particularly jarring and awful. Get some style,” Stefanovic points out that he is judged on how he does his job.
Our Bottom Line: Gender Gap
Whenever gender inequity is discussed, the pay gap gets the headlines. Perhaps though, because job discrimination based on appearance can reflect a patriarchal attitude toward women, the dominance of one social group’s values, and unfair performance reviews, it should receive more attention. But, I am torn because having workplace dress code rules is not necessarily bad.