By Tanya Day
Tanya Day is a postgraduate student at Newcastle University, studying a Master’s degree in Museum Studies, currently volunteering with the Women of Tyneside project.
She loves to click-clack in wedged boots, but prefers to shuffle in slippers.
There’s no denying the power of a good ‘stomp-CLACK’! Hearing your heels slam and slap as you turn a corner and march down a corridor can make a woman feel she can conquer the world. But women’s high heels haven’t always carried this power, especially when worn to work. They could be seen as a symbol showing the lack of choice in what a woman could do.
For years, women wore shoes like these to work, because they had no choice. Even into the late 1900’s women were limited in what they could choose as a career, often being limited to clerical desk jobs. More often than not, a high heel was the expected, and often required, shoe for such ‘women’s jobs’. Scores of women wanted to do, and be, more. Yet, they had to continue to click around in heels, powerless to change their course, and unable to choose a different way.
Over the decades, and on the heels of many courageous women who tried to break societal expectations, this has slowly changed. Both World Wars had a big factor in eliciting this change as women undertook work in all kinds of factories in the absence of the usual male workforce. Finally, there were options, and those that wanted to break free could step into different shoes – literally, as well as figuratively. After each war, there were attempts to push women back into their old positions as the men returned, but they managed to keep a foot in the door; the door of change that broadened what women could do and achieve in their professional lives. These changes allowed for more choice. The choice to remain, listen and comply with society’s ideals, or the chance to make and follow their own destiny and ideas.
There’s nothing better than scoring a great new pair of heels. There’s also nothing like having the power to choose when and where you put them on. Now, women can choose to express their power in their careers with more sounds than ever before. Maybe you’ll choose to squelch in a pair of wellies as a geologist, an archaeologist, or a firefighter. You could choose to pad softly in plimsolls as a surgeon, or stomp in steel-toed boots as a construction worker. You could squeak in orthopedic shoes as a chef, tear along a running track in spiked trainers, or even shuffle in a full hazmat suit as you work to cure the world’s deadliest diseases.
Finally, women largely have the choice to truly be anything they wish to be. So rest assured that no longer are women limited to only wear high heels at a secretary’s desk. Now they can choose to slip on their stilettos, brogues or trainers, as they stalk around their office as the company CEO.
However, when Nicola Thorp was sent home from work in 2016 for refusing to wear her high heels at work, an examination into UK law took place as to whether this was legal. Whilst enforcing the wearing of heels or make-up is unlawful sex discrimination, the Government have not yet done enough to highlight that employers can not implement these dress codes. Have you ever been made to wear high heels in your workplace?