blogging gobbledygook and such

Scarf-clad friend denied make-up job

I WRITE in on behalf of a friend who, like me, couldn’t believe discrimination still exists, especially in a country such as ours, which is known for its racial and religious respect and tolerance.

Recently, she applied for a part-time job as a make-up employee at a beauty company located in KLCC.

Although she was over-qualified for the post, her love for make-up products and her excellent social skills would indeed be an asset to the company, as she would be able to attract buyers to try out and buy the products.

However, to her dismay, she couldn’t (or rather wouldn’t) be hired, as the company’s policy of β€œfreestyle and attractive” dress code states that she would have to take off her scarf.

I find this excuse utterly ridiculous. What has wearing a scarf to do with selling make-up?

If anything, my friend would actually attract more scarf-clad customers, as there are more and more scarf-clad professional career women in Malaysia of late.

And indeed, who says that wearing a scarf is not attractive?

And there are so many styles of wearing scarves at the moment, which are appropriate, modest yet still breathtakingly beautiful.

I urge companies and business establishments to take note that wearing scarves doesn’t contribute to less work quality and productivity.

It’s really a shame such prejudice still exists.

NAZREEN, Mersing.

This letter makes a persuasive argument when it comes to dress codes. What exactly does ‘freestyle and attractive’ means? A headscarf might be attractive to some Muslim women, but perhaps not to others who don’t wear a headscarf.

Then again, there are some make-up brands where the target market is predominantly made up of non-Muslim consumers. So, the company’s logic might be that hiring a headscarf-donning woman would not appeal to such people.

But if you think about it, what has that headscarf anything to do with the make-up? You still see her face and the make-up that she uses, right? The headscarf doesn’t affect her work performance in any way, does it?

If you think of another example, we have dress codes to adhere to in big multinational corporations. Women are expected to use make-up. Is this fair, when men are not expected to? What has make-up to do with a person’s job performance? Why is it a woman with made-up face is only considered presentable and attractive in the corporate world, while a woman who does not use make-up is not considered so?

Personally, have not ever used make-up before, and am not interested at this moment in time to try. Have hyperhidrosis, so it would be quite wasted to spend so much for make-up to melt on self’s face the moment start sweating. Then would have to spend some more in order to do something about the hyperhidrosis. Do not plan to work in a corporate company, but if there’s an opportunity to do so after have graduated, wouldn’t mind giving it a go for the work experience. But not at the expense that am forced to use make-up, because it is self’s personal choice not to and it should be respected, just like it is a Muslim woman’s choice to don a headscarf (religious reasons notwithstanding).

Am not sure really if dress codes are a form of prejudice (when it uses vague descriptions and interpret it in such a way that it can discriminate certain people) or it’s something a company has the right to dictate – it is they who’s hiring you, after all. Just like proper qualifications, they require people with the proper image to best represent the company. What do you think?

Comments on: "Is dress code a discrimination?" (17)

  1. I have few points to make:

    1. Yes in a job, where using a head scarf does not impede work. There should not be imposing dress code guidelines. However, I sometimes do not understand why an insistence over head scarf. My thoughts do not come from this incident but another piece I had read sometime back in HT.

    A Muslim woman who manages her own hotel Shalimar preferred to wear burqa because she felt more safe and comfortable (?) It is shame on our society where we can not provide a safe environment where even leading ladies of the hotel do not feel safe to feel sun, air, rain on their face. Or is it persistence on part of few communities? It is a sensitive subject, I ahve been mulling over for a long time.

    2. As you said, not wearing head scarf may also attract those clients who dont use the,. Who knows, that may be the target client for that salon.

    3. Why do women need to wear makeup in corporate world? I shun all such rules, written or unwritten. This is plain gender-bias.

    sulz: it’s the first have heard that muslim women wear the headscarf for safety purposes! well, as you said, if the headscarf doesn’t impede job performance, there’s no valid reason to reject them if they have the right qualifications. in this case, would her personal image be a sort of qualification since she is the front liner of the company as a salesperson? yet that doesn’t make sense either because if she does make-up well, she can attract buyers just the same!

    okay, admit that have not heard of make-up being mandatory in a corporate world. but have you seen corporate women not wearing make-up? it seems like to be up there you have to wear make-up? and when you read tips about going to job interviews, they always recommend light make-up – there’s no mention of the option of not wearing make-up.

  2. Sulz:

    You say corporate codes require women to wear make-up. Really? I have worked for a good 12-13 years now and nobody ever asked me to wear make-up. My first job was indeed in a make-up products company where knowing that I did not use make-up, they assigned me to skincare division instead.

    Women wearing make-up is an example of a Nash equilibrium women have forced on themselves. Penelope Trunk writes much about the use of make-up and I always argue with her about it. Men do not notice women’s make-up so evolutionary logic clearly fails. Women apparently don make-up to intimidate or to seek approval of other women. Why blame corporations for something people want to do to themselves?

    But on a lighter note, may be the girl who did not get the job, should send this link to people who need to get with the fashions in scarves πŸ™‚

    sulz: well, the word had used was expected, and have admitted to a commenter above that have not heard of it being a mandatory rule. at the same time do not seem to see corporate women without make-up – at least, the ones who hold the top positions! this is purely from self’s experience. am glad to hear this is a misconception on self’s part, though maybe in malaysia it is not the case? (can any malaysian reader working in a corporate company confirm this?)

    thanks for the link; am living in a muslim country and do not even know those terms! in malaysia, the headscarf is just called tudung, which is a malay word.

  3. Though you’re justified when you say that dress codes don’t have anything to do with one’s capability but you’re not exactly right when you say that it’s only the women who face it. It happens with men too. Every company wants smart and attractive looking people today. Suppose you’re not very good looking and you’re a guy, they might reject you. Also some companies don’t hire Sikhs because they wear a turban and cannot exactly be called “good looking”. The discrimination is everywhere and there’s not much you can do about it.

    I hope this discrimination stops soon enough all the same.

    sulz: huh, are sikhs discriminated for the turban? does that mean turbans are not allowed at a corporate company?? as for rejecting you based on your looks, how is that proven exactly? they’d just say that you don’t have the right qualifications or something, they wouldn’t say that you don’t look good enough for the job?! (assuming this is not a modelling job or one that requires your look to be part of your job performance)

  4. Sulz, as luck would have it, the Christmas issue of the Economist has a fascinating article on the connection between beauty and success.

    It refers to a piece of research that finds beauty premium and ugliness rebate in salaries offered to people not just in the US but in China too where the premium on beauty is the highest for women, compared to other countries.

    Inevitably the article refers to the $280B cosmetic industry and points out that research suggests that natural beauty and its signalling cannot really be trumped because humans are tuned to something not quite specific.

    May I suggest therefore that compliance with need to use makeup is a complex construct made of us advertising selling us dreams and we, in our least cognitive moments, buying into those messages? It may also be socially constructed as an expectation. And women probably also suffer a shortage of self-confidence and such props help them tide over such shortages.

    If you have access to the said issue of the Economist, do check it out.


    sulz: would try to look for it in college library. πŸ™‚ have read articles like how between two candidates with the same job and qualification, the better paid person would more likely be male and not fat, so beauty definitely helps in getting you far in life. for sure there are many who use make-up for the wrong reasons, but am not sure if it’s the case for everybody. while personally do not want to use make-up, am a girly girl who loves to dress up for occasions. does that mean am buying into messages perpetrated by clothing brands? that’s tricky!

  5. I cannot speak for your country but yes, fashion discrimination is a practice of the business world. There are many reasons a company cannot hire you and refusal to adhere to company business attire standards is perfectly legal. In fact if an individual were to walk into a interview the manner of dress and style is a consideration in the hiring process. If you walk into an interview at a fortune 500 company with spiked blue hair, chances are you ain’t gonna be considered. I have never seen a situation where makeup was required, though it might be necessary to compete, but I have seen women forced to change their makeup when they come in with glitter makeup on. There are also many men who now wear makeup in the business world to have that perfect skin look in some as some positions are very competitive, and looks can count. You can be forced to change choice of clothing, hair style,facial hair style, cover up tattoos and even have the types of jewelry you wear restricted. A business place is not a democracy but a closed society. To be accepted into and operate within you are required to conform. The only exception to dress codes come when a government decides that a certain conformity to the dress code would exclude protected cultural customs. That can vary. I know that a manager cannot tell an African American that they cannot wear a goatee beard because it fits into these parameters. But even then there are some exceptions. If a fashion is considered a working conditions safety risk or a detriment to performing a job then those parameters no longer matter and the worker must conform.

    sulz: thanks for the input. have never considered this issue beyond make-up and headscarves. so based on what you’ve said, guess it’s a company’s every right to dictate what their employees should look like – at the workplace, that is. πŸ™‚

  6. Well, i cant much say about dress codes in companies i am still studying ,yes ,i would agree with what ish said.. Discrimination does happen…students coming from villages who doesn’t have a good sense of dresing can lose a job due to this discrimination..
    generally speaking ,i hate the concept of dress codes..some colleges here does have it.. fortunately i am not in one of those colleges πŸ˜› , so these colleges restrict guys from wearing any type of jeans and girls too..they say it is required for a professional look..why the hell should a student look professional..and i dont see anything wrong in wearing what we are comfortable with…

    sulz: that’s true, we tend to underestimate people from the village or small town and overestimate the people living in the city. as for college and dress codes, think the logic is that you’re studying to work later, so may as well get you started on dressing right at the beginning. πŸ˜‰ fortunately like your college, self’s doesn’t have a dress code (other than to dress decently because it’s a muslim country after all) but if they were to insist on dressing in office clothes, wouldn’t really mind because it looks smart. πŸ™‚

    oh, thanks for saying hi on meebo!

  7. With regards to make up at work, I have not heart of such ruling before but it does help if you put on make up. Women do tend to look more radiant with make up on than without (unless you’re one of those natural beauties).

    This sort of discimination isn’t exactly new. Women face the worst amount of discrimination that I’ve known. Apart from what you’ve mentioned, fat people do tend to get discriminated as well even though the post that the person is applying for isn’t related to your body size / weight. Humans are visual creatures and say what you like but a beautiful woman who isn’t smart may get the job over a smarter fat woman.

    Of course there’s the few companies that do not discriminate at all but there are very few. Frankly, there isn’t much we can do about this other than to hopefully educate our friends (in a subtle way) and our children not to act in such manner. The world is made up of all kinds of people with all kinds of sizes and shapes and they all deserve an equal chance to prove themselves.

    sulz: am not one of those natural beauties for sure, so does that mean have to be resigned to face discrimination? 😦 sigh, unfortunately yes, humans are visual creatures and am not excepted from that! am trying to look beyond the looks of something or someone though…

  8. Sulz: On the psychology of dressing and make-up, you may like this read πŸ™‚ It is a short post by a British journalist who writes about clothes, fashion and dressing at the moment

    sulz: interesting quote from the link; never knew that clothes wasn’t the purpose for warmth but for decoration!

  9. Some sage advice was passed in one of my classes by one of my college instructors. Dress for class as if you were dressing for work. No T-shirts, sloppy clothes or wild outfits. Never skip class without a very good reason. The reasons were habit and impressions. If you get into a habit of sloppy dressing and poor attendance it will usually carry over to your regular and work life. If you find reasons to skip class, you will also find reasons to skip work. And finally when you leave school you are going want references from your instructor and many of the quality prospective employers will call the scholastic institutions to get this type of information for recent graduates.

    sulz: while it’s great to start the habit early, it does take out a lot of fun being a college student. this is like the last time you’d ever have the freedom of an adult and the responsibility of a student! naturally you’d want to have some fun, even if it means behaving very much different from when you start working life… πŸ˜›

    personally, though, if you find a job you enjoy you’d probably like the clothes and won’t have reasons to skip work, yes? πŸ˜‰ but if only everybody is so fortunate to find jobs they love!

  10. I prefer dressing for comfort and was quite pleased when my office went to “business casual” and allowed fleeces, pullovers, hoodies, and other sweatshirt type materials. Heck, we even get to wear shorts now in the summer and blue jeans in the winter.

    I’ve never been big on rules and restrictions. It all just seems so Draconian. If I want to dress up, fine. If not, so be it.

    Of course, if you are dealing face to face with customers, I think the company does need to scrutinize a bit more based on what their research shows is effective. You’re basically a walking advertisement/representative of their brand, so if their research suggests going one way or the other, I suppose it becomes less sinister.

    sulz: nice company you’re working for. πŸ™‚ shorts, that’ll never happen in malaysia no matter how hot it gets! so that means would have hope if were to apply for a behind-the-scenes sort of job? well, can cross fingers for that… πŸ˜‰

  11. re: 1st line of your response to John Do: you are too, you big dope! You will always look lovely without makeup, so I’d certainly support your desire not to wear it. πŸ™‚
    I agree with most of your commenters that requiring woman to either wear–or not to wear–a scarf is discriminatory. Was the letter quoted at the top of your post referring specifically to headscarves?
    Many Muslim women I know do not wear makeup because of religious modesty, so I imagine those would not want jobs selling makeup if they don’t wear it. But I hope both employers and customers would be able to look past the scarf and into the face.
    There was that case in France a few years ago where a girl could not wear her headscarf to school even though it was part of her normal dress. The “authorities” thought the scarves were separatist, but everyone accessories differently even when wearing uniforms, including hairstyle, etc. If a private company deems it proper to ban headscarves, then they should also ban a cross or crucifix, or star of david, or any number of other religious symbols where they can be seen. I think females are standing up for themselves more and more.

    sulz: okay lor, believe you lor… *sheepish* πŸ™‚

    yes, the letter refers specifically to headscarves because she’s relating her friend’s experience of it. strangely, the crucifix is considered trendy (religious relations aside) so nobody would discriminate it if their dress code is ‘freestyle and attractive’! on the other hand, headscarves are deemed unattractive and worn only for religious purposes. that’s not true because have seen women with headscarves and look very attractive; it’s the way they wear it.

  12. OK, should not have called you a dope 😦 I just get frustrated when you falsely accuse yourself of un-beauty. Sorry. I don’t believe you will experience discrimination against the ugly! 8)

    sulz: haha, didn’t mind really. anyone can scold self, just don’t give up on self. πŸ˜‰

  13. lovelyloey said:

    What happened a couple of years ago here in Singapore was that a primary school child was denied entry to school (and face disciplinary action) for wearing a tudung to school. Yes, our secular schools do not allow female muslims to wear tudungs to school; they have to do to madrasah if they are that religious.
    Well, as for the company that rejected the applicant, they just harbour this thought that tudung = strict religious doctrines = non-modern. I’m sure the issue is not about religious discrimination. If someone turned up in tardy T-shirt and jeans, they’d reject that applicant too I guess.

    sulz: wah, a bit the extreme lor. wearing a tudung doesn’t make one religious, but at the same time it could be more religious than the non-tudung female muslims.

    hmm, from that perspective, guess job interviews are kind of ‘discriminatory’ then, because the only ones who get interviews would have the proper qualifications and would just have to be tested on other aspects before deemed suitable for the job.

  14. The whole thing is,unless you are bing forced to work in a particular workplace, then the choice is yours; either find another place to work or learn to live with the dress code. A business is the owners to run and as long as the owner is not breaking laws they are as free to pick and choose workers, as the workers are free to pick and choose companies to work at. If your desire to work at a particular company is high then you learn to conform to their rules. Who knows maybe you will get lucky and they might change the rules eventually. It happens, just don’t set yourself up for by disappointment by thinking you can force the change. I for one was never particularly excited about wearing ties. But if you add up the amount of time I have spent in the workplace, the majority of that time has been spent being forced to wear a tie and oft times a sport or suit coat. It was just something that is part of the conformity. It is not only expected by the companies but it is also expected by the clients those companies they serve. I will say I have learned over the years to skirt the rules as give them a touch of my own translations of the rules. Over the years I have actually learned how to make dress codes less stuffy and still fit the rules. My understanding of ties are that they are the evolution of a “coat of arms”. So I have learned to give them a fun twist by wearing ties that have cartoon characters, funky designs, Star Trek themes, I even have a tie with Marilyn Monroe’s picture on it. Some bosses were stuffy about them others have gotten a kick out of my fashion choices. The trick is learning to play the game within the system.

    sulz: interesting and sensible perspective! as said, if given the chance would love to work in a corporate environment, but if am expected to wear make-up, shall have to decline the opportunity. as you said, workers are free to pick and choose companies. πŸ™‚

  15. here is the link to the post where a woman says scarf protects her, gets her respect? and makes her comfortable:

    sulz: thanks for the link! πŸ™‚

  16. In the US, women can be required to wear make-up as part of a corporate dress and grooming code.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently decided by a majority that Harrah’s casino could require women employees to wear their hair styled and to appear in full makeup, complete with powder, mascara, lipstick and blush.

    I’ve worked for major corporations in several countries and a number have had similar requirements.

    I have the dress and grooming code for a major multinational in front of me and it requires women staff to wear makeup, including mascara, lipstick, blush and foundation. Hair must be styled in a professional and non-confrontational way, and not held off the neck with a comb, band or clip. The code says smart trouser suits are acceptable, but skirts with jackets are preferred. Women who wear skirts must wear tights/nylons and keep their legs presentable. The code even lists the acceptable colours cof nail polish.

    The code is equally draconian for men. Men can’t have hair that touches or extends below the top of the shirt collar – and only shirts with collars are acceptable. Ponytails, mullets, confrontational or extreme hair styles, and facial hair are prohibited. Men must have clean, trimmed fingernails without colored nail polish. Men are prohibited from wearing makeup.

    Modest and discreet earrings are permitted for female employees but limited to one per ear. Other than that, body piercings that may be seen or inferred are prohibited.

    Other prohibitions apply to running shoes/trainers, shorts, denim, leather clothing, miniskirts (defined as anything higher than the top of the knee), halter tops, tank tops, plunge cleavages, T-shirts, obvious corsetry, sweatshirts and baseball hats. Clothing adorned with phrases and sayings, team logos, designer or brand names, images, graphics or wording is also prohibited unless corporate provided or approved.

    Women are permitted a discreet necklace, engagement ring and wedding ring. Men are permitted a wedding or fraternity band.

    Cross dressing by either sex is prohibited.

    I used to wonder what had provoked some of the prohibitions, especially the last one!

    sulz: thanks so much for the detailed explanation about dress code in certain companies in the us! very informational. looking back at the comments received in this post, have decided that it’s understandable of companies to impose a dress code. and you’re right, quite draconian!

    and yeah, cross-dressing? maybe some man wore a kilt to the company’s xmas party a few years back. πŸ˜‰

  17. Stonehead, Although I have never worked at a workplace that required the women to wear makeup, I have worked at places that put restrictions on the application styles of makeup. Most of the rest sound like standard corporation requirements. The reasons they are parts of a written dresscode is simple, MONEY $$$$! Part of it is that to succeed a business has to appear non-threatening to its customers to make profit. Another part is that to limit lawsuits by employees you put the dresscode up front and personal at the hiring time. I can say should anyone ever walk into an interview with me wearing blue or orange hair they would be treated respectfully during the interview but after they left their application would be stamped not approved. If you are applying to a job it is your responsibility to research and understand the company. A simple walkthrough during the original application filling out will give you the understanding of a company’s expectations.

    sulz: great explanation! while still do not agree that our style should be dictated by companies because it’s the performance that counts, at the same time do understand better the reasons for a dress code and will not feel am being treated unfairly if chose not to follow a company’s expected sense of dressing.

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