Are Heels Ever Too High for the Workplace?

Hayley FitzPatrick
Some women find that wearing high heels both in and out of the workplace boosts their confidence. (Photo: Getty Images)
Some women find that wearing high heels both in and out of the workplace boosts their confidence. (Photo: Getty Images)

A lighthearted conversation between two television reporters on ABC11 WTVD Eyewitness News in North Carolina sparked an interesting conversation on the height of heels in the workplace. Co-anchor Steve Daniels was amazed at his fellow anchor Tisha Powell‘s ability to walk in such high heels and asked her to show the audience how tall they were during a “Facebook Live” segment.

“For as long as you’ve had those shoes, I have not known how you can walk in those shoes,” Daniels remarked on her heels, which he referred to as her “tall-girl shoes.”

Powell had a humorous anecdote to explain her rationale. “So here’s the thing, when we stand next to each other, I want to appear as though I am as tall as he is,” she said. “I don’t want to stand on one of those boxes because I’ve fallen off one of those boxes before. So now I just wear these really tall shoes, so now everyone just thinks I’m 6-foot-2. I’m OK with that.”

Daniels stated that he was curious about how she was able to walk in them, which Powell simply chalked up to practice. The anchor later posted an image of her sky-high heels on her Facebook page, asking users to sound off on what they thought of them.

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“My colleague Steve Daniels WTVD thinks my heels are too high and called me out last night on Facebook Live!” Powell posted. “What do you think? I just love a platform high-heel shoe. They give me the height God didn’t, and they don’t hurt. That’s my story everyone. Happy Friday!” Powell also attached a screenshot of her heel from the “Facebook Live” segment.

One user, Eugene Manuel, had an interesting take: “I kinda noticed you are taller than Steve. You must look intimidating to Steve when you wear those shoes. Men don’t like that, so I say keep wearing them. You look great!”

Another viewer, Diana Ray Jones, pointed out that Daniels’s comments were simply made in jest: “Good Morning Tisha, if you can wear them, go for it. Steve called you out all in fun. I can’t wear heels that tall.” Jones was among the many women and men who encouraged Powell in the comments section to wear what she wants as long as the shoes make her feel happy and confident.

Interestingly enough, women in positions of power — whether in the media or in a real corporate environment — are often associated with high heels. In entertainment, power players are often depicted in stilettos, which match the height of their male associates or help them feel empowered. Some even view heels as a status symbol. The most simple explanation, of course, is that some women just like the appearance of high heels and appreciate an extra lift.

However, in certain office environments, bosses expect female employees to wear heels. A U.K. survey found that 7 percent of the women say their employers have urged them to wear high heels in the office or with clients because it makes them look “more appealing.” But in recent years, there’s been pushback from women who believe that “the heels in the workplace” standard is sexist and, frankly, uncomfortable. Office norms are changing, and more women are switching to flats and sneakers.

Elizabeth Semmelhack, author of Heights of Fashion: A History of the Elevated Shoe, explained to Refinery29 that the link between sexism and high heels is still apparent in today’s society. “As long as the high heel is linked to desirability, and desirability is linked to female success, then, yes, high heels will stand in the way of equality,” she said.

Sylvie di Giusto, founder of Executive Image Consulting, believes that it’s far more important to be recognized for one’s skill set and knowledge than appearance. That said, di Giusto notes she personally favors heels in the workplace, but it’s not for the reason you might think.

“It’s not because a dress code would require it, or because there is this old-fashioned, out-of-date misbelief that women in the workplace have to wear heels — absurd!” she tells Yahoo Style. It’s more that, for some women, wearing heels boosts their confidence — and there’s nothing wrong with that.

“Confidence is your best designer,” says di Giusto. “And if a pair of heels can help you to feel more confident, if you feel it upgrades your entire look, if you feel it changes your posture positively, if you feel you walk more powerful in them — then please get a great pair of heels. Otherwise, avoid them for any price and find something else that can boost this confidence in you.”


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