For many organisations, corporate clothing and protective workwear is a key consideration. While there is an enormous choice in the types of garment and PPE available today, providing clothing that is truly fit for purpose and fits the wearer is important.
In some industries and professions, a notable difference exists between the number of males and females employed in certain roles. Whilst women may dominate professions such as childcare and veterinary services, statistics show that women account for less than 15% of the construction workforce. Other sectors have a similar imbalance, and this can result in women’s requirements being treated as secondary.
Whilst these percentages are thought-provoking and may even be explainable, it must be acknowledged that no matter the ratio, women need to be catered for with suitable work clothing and PPE. At WISE Worksafe, our aim is to be at the forefront of ladies’ corporate uniform, workwear 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 accurate 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 silver bullet to the perfect female-fit workwear. However, one thing for sure is that providing ladies with men’s garments in smaller sizes just doesn’t cut it. Although workwear has purposes other than just looking good, this is no reason for it to be ill-fitting.
This is not to say that female workers are consumed by 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 apparently little or no effort has been made by their employer to cater for their needs.
The good news is that there are plenty of female garments available from WISE Worksafe. From corporate suitwear to functional workwear to women’s PPE, our ever-growing range is meeting the requirements of thousands of women in the workplace. There are even options for women during pregnancy, including specially designed high visibility maternity clothing.
Female-fit and branding
Corporate uniform is 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 dressing their female staff appropriately, 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 aims to hold up a mirror to its own sector, whilst challenging misconceptions and starting 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 a normality rather than a novelty. Many products are available in separate male and female fit, including cargo trousers, polo shirts and fleeces.
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 it 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 built to a high standard. This is equally important as being a good fit, to ensure the garments are suitable for the role and can endure tough conditions.
When ladies work garment options are limited, the seemingly conflicting requirements of fit, durability and safety legislation can be used as 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 that could be inhibited by unsuitable workwear.
However, the industry is evolving and needs to continue to do so, to meet the demands of a growing 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 women safe
Safety at work is a top priority, and a key part of this is 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 where necessary.
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 general fit of PPE. Manufacturers and suppliers have been working together to combat this, such as V12’s specially designed ladies safety footwear. 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.
Further product developments have also taken place, and at WISE Worksafe we are continuing to grow our product range in this area.
Most hi-vis workwear is now available in female-fit, such as 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 for 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 which causes discomfort could discourage the wearer from using it. If suitable equipment is not made available for women, there is a high risk they will be inadequately protected.
As we’ve discussed, finding uniform, workwear and PPE that fits women properly isn’t a luxury – 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 is also a step towards gender equality and helps women to feel they are cared for equally. This encourages female talent when recruiting and removes any stigmas about the ability of women in the workplace.
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.