I went to the GM Moving conference recently & was taken with the #ActiveSoles initiative. Everyone attending the conference had been encouraged to wear comfortable footwear and to integrate some activity into their day.
I’ve been thinking about how the clothes we wear influence our habits and the fact that, in some work environments, there are barriers (real or perceived) to active wear. Conferences can be incredibly sedentary affairs, the #ActiveSoles movement gave people permission to wear shoes that make it easier to be active during the conference.
I firmly believe in the transformative potential of physical activity, it improves lives, brings communities together and supports economic growth. I also believe in personal liberty and if women (or indeed men) choose to wear pencil skirts & high heels then all power to them. However, if there is corporate pressure to conform to unwritten standards about attire and this is preventing opportunities for activity during the day, then this is not ok.
I wear my trainers with smart work clothes a lot, but I’m conscious of situations when I think ‘better not today’ this tends to be if I am attending important meetings, speaking at conferences or meeting new people. The #ActiveSoles initiative has made me reflect on why I do this and whether I really want to perpetuate the unspoken rule that women must look smart/corporate at the cost of comfort (and therefore activity and therefore health).
I’m always struck by the inequalities in physical activity; women are consistently less active than men across the life course. I’m also struck by inequalities in earnings & lack of female representation at senior levels in organisations. I would love to see inspiring female role models making a stand against uncomfortable corporate clothing, making it clear that they want to be active during their day. After all we know that physical activity helps to manages stress, prevent burnout and improve productivity.
Clothing is only a tiny part of the jigsaw, but so many things are and collectively these small things make a difference. So, inspired by #ActiveSoles, I’m going to try to make a conscious effort to wear clothes and shoes that, at the very least, don’t impede my ability to move around, and hopefully enable me to grab a few extra bits of activity throughout the day. If enough people do it, there is an opportunity to change workplace expectations, redefine cultural norms and make it easier for working women to be more active.