How Should Women Dress at Work?

Team surgeon at work on operating in hospital. (Photo: sheff/Shutterstock)
A woman in a Hazmat suit.
I wore a suit kind of like this one (sometimes with a gas mask) at my first job as a hydrologist. (Photo: Cameron Whitman/Shutterstock)

My first job out of college was as a staff geologist for a geological services company. In my capacity as a scientist working her way up, I started at the bottom — in my case that entailed taking samples around buried oil and gas tanks to ensure local water supplies weren't being contaminated. As part of that job, I sometimes wore a hazmat suit, like the one pictured above.

I was reminded of that get-up when I saw the hashtag #DressLikeAWoman trending on Twitter in response to what an anonymous source in the Trump administration told that the new president likes women who work for him "to dress like women."

If this indeed was a directive from the POTUS, he wouldn't be the first male baby boomer to suggest he likes women to dress in a certain way — some elderly male judges will not allow female lawyers to speak in their courts if they are wearing pants, as many women in the legal profession are aware.

While most people agree that employers can expect employees to dress appropriately for their job (whether that means wearing jackets and closed-toe shoes, safety gear, or a logo'd polo shirt), where it gets tricky is when "appropriate" becomes code for "what I think people should wear." The simple way to avoid insulting people or miscommunicating is to set workplace attire rules that don't take the gender of the person into account: Rules disallowing sleeveless shirts, open collars, jeans, or sneakers can be applicable to all employees and are therefore fair.

Because, after all, what does "dress like a woman" even mean? As Twitter user Maddie Soper wrote: