Virgin Atlantic announced Sept. 28 it has updated its gender identity policy and allows its workers to “wear the clothing that expresses how they identify or present themselves” — an update that comes amid a tightening talent market, particularly in industries like travel that have been battered by the pandemic.
Workers no longer need to follow a gendered dress code and instead may choose the uniform they wish to wear that best suits their gender expression, the company explained in a press release. The company also introduced optional pronoun badges for both workers and travelers and mandatory inclusivity training for staff and tourism and hotel partners.
In its announcement, Virgin Atlantic noted that one-fifth of employees surveyed in a report commissioned by the company said that feeling they can be their true selves at work made them more loyal to their employer.
The company had already done away with make-up requirements for women and allowed visible tattoos, reflecting ongoing changes to uniforms that have taken place since before the pandemic hit, in part to retain talent.
In 2019, Walmart made headlines when it changed the design of its iconic vests to accommodate a more casual dress code overall. That same year, Starbucks “simplified” its dress code to give more clarity in wardrobe expectations and even Goldman Sachs — known for its formal image — relaxed its dress code slightly in 2019.
Now as a return to the office looms for many companies, the future of the dress code is but one question without a real, solid answer. But the pendulum, at least at the moment, seems to have swung toward more inclusive and open dress codes to allow for broader gender expression and freedom. TIAA, for example, announced in 2020 — not long after the U.S. Supreme Court held that federal law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace — that employees would be allowed to dress as the gender of their choosing.
Employers may not be able to afford to ignore their dress codes, either. One-third of employees surveyed by Randstad U.S. in 2019 said they would leave their job if forced to follow a “conservative” dress code — a declaration made even before WFH fashion found its way to the office.