Originally published on 26th Apr 2019
Updated 10th December 2019
Understanding the Importance of Female-Fit Workwear and Women’s PPE
For many organisations, corporate clothing and protective workwear is a crucial consideration. There is an enormous variety of garments and personal protective equipment (PPE) available today. It is important to select clothing for your workers that is appropriate for their role and fits well.
In some industries and professions, a notable difference exists between the number of males and females employed in certain roles. While women may dominate professions such as childcare and veterinary services, statistics show that women account for less than 15% of the UK construction workforce, and considerably less actually “on the tools” at building sites. Other sectors have a similar imbalance, and this can result in women’s workwear requirements being treated as secondary.
While these percentages are thought-provoking, it must be acknowledged that no matter what the ratio, manufacturers and suppliers need to consider female workers when making and selecting work clothing and PPE. At WISE Worksafe, we aim to be at the forefront of ladies’ workwear, corporate uniform and PPE.
Why Women Need a Different Fit
In almost every fashion retail store or web shop, there’s a clear distinction between menswear and womenswear. This may seem obvious, but there isn’t always the same attention to male and female specific work clothing — particularly where garments are designed for manual work.
Female clothing is designed for the build of a woman’s body and is typically fitted in areas such as the waist and chest to allow more comfort and an aesthetic fit. Some garments are made from stretch fabric or are partially elasticated to provide flexibility and a more tailored fit.
Many women already struggle to find a good fit in everyday clothing despite the wide choice available, so we’re not pretending there’s a magic solution to the perfect female PPE and workwear. However, one thing is for certain — providing ladies with men’s garments in smaller sizes just doesn’t cut it. Although workwear has purposes other than just looking good, ill-fitting women’s workwear can look unprofessional and it may not afford the wearer the protection it is designed to provide.
This is not to say that female workers are obsessed with their appearance, but looking and feeling smart is a basic expectation for any member of staff — male or female. People who feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about what they’re wearing will not perform as well and are less likely to remain in the job. They may even feel discriminated against — particularly if their employer appears to have made little or no effort to cater to their needs.
The good news is that there is plenty of PPE for women and ladies workwear in the WISE Worksafe range. From corporate business wear to functional workwear and women’s PPE, our ever-growing range meets the requirements of thousands of women in the workplace. There are also workwear options for women during pregnancy, including specially designed high visibility maternity clothing.
Female-Fit and Branding
Corporate uniforms are provided and worn for several reasons, but one of the key benefits is to promote a brand and portray a message of professionalism. A professional image among employees reflects directly on the company and workers become a means by which brand values and expectations are established. This is a further reason why a good fit is essential.
Ill-fitting clothes on women will look misshapen, messy or completely out of place. This can discredit the values that the company works hard to maintain. If female staff appear uncomfortable or untidy, the organisation or brand that provided the uniform is likely to be perceived as sloppy, low quality and cheap.
Such clothing also indicates a lack of care from the company and a disregard for providing satisfactorily for their female staff — especially if the male staff are notably better dressed in well-fitted clothing.
Equal Consideration, Equal Goals
Although women don’t currently make up a high proportion of those employed in construction and other blue-collar industries, steps are being made to address the imbalance through events such as the Women in Construction & Engineering (WICE) Summit. This event shows recognition to exceptional female professionals in this sector, which helps the whole industry challenge misconceptions and start discussions about things that need to change.
With more women entering male-dominated industries, employers and suppliers need to embrace and adapt to these changes. WISE Worksafe has already made steps toward ensuring female-fit clothing becomes the norm rather than a novelty. Many products are available in separate male and female fit, including cargo trousers, polo shirts, fleeces and high visibility garments.
If women can see that these sectors are becoming consciously aware of their challenges and are actively making a change, they may be encouraged to make them a career choice. Of course, there are issues faced by the industry other than workwear, but feeling confident and included in the workplace is a key step to getting more women into construction and other industrial sectors.
Durability and Fit for Purpose
Many roles in construction and other manual jobs involve hard physical work, so workwear needs to be robust, functional and made to a high standard. Ensuring that ladies PPE, protective clothing and workwear is suitable for their role and can endure tough conditions is equally important as finding well-fitting garments.
When women’s work garment options are limited, the seemingly conflicting requirements of fit, durability and safety legislation can become an excuse for sacrificing one or more of these. One size does not fit all and neither does one shape, especially if specific tasks require certain movements which could be inhibited by unsuitable workwear.
However, the workwear industry is evolving and it needs to continue to do so to meet the needs of an increasing female workforce in these sectors. Going beyond a style that simply fits to become a style that also lasts and performs, ensures women’s workwear is crafted to appropriate industry standards and regulations.
Keeping All Workers Safe
Safety at work is a top priority for any business, and a key part of this is ensuring that all workers have access to correctly fitting Personal Protective Equipment. For any work that involves a degree of risk to workers, it is the responsibility of the employer to provide employees with suitable PPE. Women’s safety should be just as valued as that of male employees.
In a previous article about the Gender PPE Gap, we discussed the issues women face when it comes to a lack of knowledge, product availability and female-fit PPE and protective clothing. Manufacturers and suppliers have been working together to combat this. V12 have designed various styles of safety footwear specifically for women. The V12 Challenger IGS ladies’ shoes and V12 Intrepid IGS ladies’ boots are shaped for the female foot, which tends to be shorter and narrower than a typical male foot.
We will see continued development in the provision of PPE for women and WISE Worksafe is committed to expanding its product range in this area.
Most hi-vis workwear is now available in female-fit, including vests, polo shirts, sweatshirts, softshell jackets, bodywarmers, waterproof jackets and trousers.
A woman’s face is typically smaller than a man’s. As a result, safety eyewear and respirators may leave vulnerable gaps if there is not a close fit. The same applies to female hands. Loose gloves can lead to poor grip and excess material which compromises safety, so hand protection must be the correct size.
As well as the safety aspect, comfort is also important. PPE that causes discomfort could discourage the wearer from using it. If ladies PPE is not made available, there is a high risk that female workers will be inadequately protected.
Buy Women’s PPE and Workwear Today
Providing uniform, workwear and PPE that fits women properly isn’t an optional extra — it’s a requirement — and has benefits for the staff and the organisation they work for.
The correct fit makes women look and feel professional, bolsters morale and productivity, and maintains the company image. It also ensures women in hazardous roles are suitably protected. Employees are far more likely to adhere to uniform and PPE policies if they have no reservations about the clothing and equipment provided.
Female-fit workwear and protective clothing is a step towards gender equality and helps women to feel they are cared for equally in the workplace. This encourages female talent when recruiting and removes any stigmas about the ability of women in the workplace.
The one-size-fits-all (or one-fit-suits-all) mentality is no longer appropriate for industries that are seeing growing numbers of females entering professions previously dominated by males. At WISE Worksafe, we are committed to providing professional and safe workwear, PPE and uniform to all of our customers, regardless of gender.
Contact us for further advice or browse our core range of corporate clothing and PPE online. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please ask; our friendly, knowledgeable team are always happy to help.