Cultivate blog readers: Here is an old journal entry I wrote a few years back about my experiences with an organization. Unfortunately, it was not an isolated incident; the issue of shirt size has come up many times in my career. Nowadays, I don’t even care to wear a golf-style shirt. The message: If you want the women (and some men) in your company to wear the team jersey, you need to find a style they like and for goodness sake, get it in their size!
From the past:
So ends work week #1 of the new year. And from this, I have two items to report. The first comes from a current assignment on a committee charged with planning a conference for all 275 members of the company’s HR department. At a recent meeting, I learned that as a committee member I would be required to wear a committee t-shirt for all three days of the conference. The vendor chosen for these t-shirts makes men’s sizes M, L and XL. Because I am a petite woman, a man’s size small is big on me and a medium is huge.
The person who ordered the shirts knew my size and also my opinion about asking people to wear t-shirts which do not fit. I made this clear about a month back in the planning process when I spoke up strongly against the idea of ordering one size t-shirt to distribute as a gift for all conference attendees. (We had failed to ask for shirt size on the registration and a committee member suggested we order Larges for everyone). I was the main opponent of this idea and ultimately we decided to give watches as the conference gift.
The second item of interest from the week I want to comment on is the new year staff meeting. In that meeting, HR’s strategy for the year was reviewed. It was announced that increasing the diversity of the workforce will be one of the company’s main objectives for the coming year. The company is 75% male/25% female and 80% white/20% minority so this matter is quite serious, especially to women and minority employees.
My response to these two separate but related events: If the organization really wants to increase diversity in its workforce, they are going to have to fork over the cash when necessary, to accommodate people who are different from the majority. And if this means going with a shirt vendor who is more expensive but has sizes that fit everyone, then so be it. Seems to me they do a great job (at least in the corporate office) of talking about increasing diversity but when the rubber meets the road and making it happen starts to cost, there is resistance.
I have been associated with this company for almost a year and in that time have received two other company shirts so large I absolutely refuse to wear them. Like I said, I am petite. When I wear clothes that are too big I look like a small child wearing dad’s clothes. And NO, (many, many people have suggested this to me), I DO NOT THINK it is a great idea to sleep in company shirts. What I like to sleep in is my business but I assure you it is not x-large men’s t-shirts with a company logo!
You may be thinking what a complainer I am to gripe about something so trivial. However, in this company, the shirt thing is really not so trivial. These shirts are usually golf-style shirts with the company logo on the chest and the name of some specific event, group, or team on the sleeve. It is a business casual environment and this look is appropriate for work. What’s more, these shirts are almost a status symbol and definitely part of the culture. In this company, where the culture is not terribly strong, the opportunity to participate in any cultural ritual is important and to be excluded from the ritual is a push toward the exit.