A discussion with Sreedhari Desai, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and Crist W. Blackwell Scholar, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina and moderator Max Bazerman, Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, Executive Committee Member, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School
About the talk:
When Nicola Thorp reported for a white-collar job at the London office of PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2016, she was told to switch from her flat footwear to two- to four-inch heels to comply with the company’s official dress-code policy for female employees. Thorp’s refusal to oblige sparked an international debate regarding whether it was appropriate to mandate female employees to wear heels as a part of their professional attire. Currently, in several countries, including the US, women in white-collar jobs are often expected to, or advised to, wear closed-toe heels in neutral colors to work. In this talk, Desai suggests that widespread expectations that female employees should adhere to symbolic gender norms, including those as seemingly trivial as the height of the heel of their shoes, may be consequential in ways that are not well understood. Across multiple studies, Desai explores the impact of heels at work and tests their effects in a range of evaluative settings common for managers and organizations: job interviews, business negotiations, and work meetings where general leadership abilities and potential are expected.