PwC doesn’t look good in high heels

BY Julian Gorham

Did you know they’ve just discovered 1,284 exoplanets? Well you’d have to have been living on one of them not to have heard about PwC this week.

Receptionist Nicola Thorp, 27, says she was told to wear shoes with a “2in to 4in heel” when she arrived at PwC in December. When she refused and was sent home she set up a petition calling for the law on dress code to be changed.

Outsourcing firm Portico said “with immediate effect all our female colleagues can wear plain flat shoes”. The company initially said Ms Thorp, from Hackney, had signed its “appearance guidelines” but said it would review them.

So what’s the real story? Sexism in the City? The Power of Social Media?

Surely it is this. A large multinational accountancy firm that spends millions of pounds on the things it says – logo, design and advertising – isn’t doing enough to engage the people who work for it (including the reception services it outsources to Portico) to ensure they represent PwC at its best.

The people at Portico and PwC don’t join up. The culture is different. There’s no shared understanding of the brand.

Even though it has responded quickly, PwC doesn’t look good in the high heels row and will be associated with it for a very long time. Getting everyone to understand ‘how we do it round here’ isn’t always a priority for organisations and brand engagement doesn’t necessarily have the caché of brand identity or advertising. But see what happened to PwC?

Being smart is about more than just looking good.