our new desks don’t work if you’re wearing a skirt, coworker hogs the coffee supplies, and more

I’m on vacation. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. Our new desks don’t work if you’re wearing a skirt

We have just moved offices and got a set of new and unsuitable desks. The new desks do not have modesty boards underneath. We are a largely female office and many of the staff wear skirts. If you are using a floor plug, you can see straight under many desks and into the groin area of the staff, and you can also see under certain desks when walking normally through the office. Our dress code is smart/casual.

The manager is not taking this seriously as a genuine concern of his staff (we also receive a lot of visitors to the office). Apparently the only solution is to buy completely new desks (the cable tidies stop boards from being attached) to the existing desks. Do we have any grounds for complaint or is this just something we have to get used to?

Yes, you have grounds to complain! It’s absolutely reasonable for you all to say, “These desks aren’t suitable for us and we’re not comfortable using them. We need to switch them out for desks that don’t uncomfortably expose us.” Say it as a group — which will be harder to ignore — and take the approach of “of course it’s obvious that we can’t use these desks so what do we need to do to get new ones?”


2. How can I get a coworker to take computer classes?

My company recently hired a new employee, “Jane.” She’s not my subordinate, but I’ve helped train her, which makes this whole situation awkward. Jane is basically computer illiterate. At first I just thought she wasn’t used to Microsoft Office products, but the more I work with her the more I’m certain Jane’s only used a computer for typing and maybe tallying a spreadsheet. I’ve had to teach her very basic functions like how to create a new tab in a spreadsheet, how to accept a meeting invitation in Outlook, or even CTRL+C. She doesn’t seem familiar with any computer program. For instance she doesn’t seem familiar with basic icons, like the Save button or even Close — she uses File->Close to exit most programs. This makes tutoring a bit of a challenge as I’m never sure what terminology I can use.

I will say she is trying really hard and learning. But the way Jane’s going about it is a problem: she’s just asking for help doing the task in front of her, instead of trying to learn how to work a whole system. There’s no way she can learn everything she needs to learn to keep up with her workload like that.

Virtually every time I walk by her desk she looks completely overwhelmed, and if I don’t stop to talk, she sighs and announces she’s totally lost or stuck or something. She dropping by my office multiple times a day to ask for help. I’m happy to help, but this is taking up way more time than it needs to. It seems whenever she has a questions she wants someone to walk her through it instead of first trying to find an answer herself.

Multiple times I’ve suggested she look up online tutorials and she says she doesn’t know how to dig through that stuff or doesn’t have the time. Or I’ve pointed her towards free computer courses, and again she cites not having time. I really think her taking a day or two to take the courses would solve a lot of problems.

How can I get Jane to take them without overstepping my bounds? She’s trying so hard and I want her to succeed and I’m worried going over her head will get her in trouble. And like I said, my suggestions are not being taken. I also know she’s really embarrassed about her struggle to get a grasp on things, and I’m worried if I tell her I can’t help her anymore she just won’t ask and things will pile up.

The good news here is that there’s someone whose job it is to deal with this and who can do it without having to worry about overstepping any bounds: her manager! I know you said that you don’t want to get her in trouble, but (a) she is far more likely to get in trouble if this continues because it’s going to impact her work, and (b) this isn’t really about being in trouble or not; it’s about flagging a serious skills deficit and letting her manager know that she needs training. As someone helping to train her, you very much have standing to say to her boss, “Hey, I’ve realized that Jane is lacking basic computer skills and that’s standing in the way of her being able to do her job efficiently. Can you work with her to get her some fundamental computer skills training?” In fact, you’d actually be being negligent if you didn’t share what you’ve observed with her boss — this is the kind of highly relevant info that needs to be shared when you’re training someone.

I think, too, you’re falling into a bit of mission drift on your work here. Your job isn’t to find a way to help Jane succeed at all costs, even when it takes you well beyond the scope of what you were asked to train her on. It’s to do the training you were asked to do, and to loop in her manager if there are obstacles to that.

All that said … you could certainly try a direct conversation with Jane too. You could say, “I think we’re at the point where you need to shore up your basic computing skills before we can go any further. Can you plan to take the courses I pointed you toward, and then we can reconvene after that? I’m going to talk to (manager) about working with you to find time to do that, since I think think it’s really essential.”


3. Coworker hogs the coffee supplies that we all bring in

We have a small laboratory that runs 24/7. We are all pretty close and have set up our break room with a nice coffee maker, but we rely on all staff to supply the coffee and creamer to keep things going. Some bring the coffee grounds and others the cream.

The problem we are having is that one coworker comes in and uses about 3 ounces of cream in her 6-ounce cup of coffee and then drinks many cups throughout her 8-hour shift. I thought about putting up a clever reminder that those who drink coffee should also supply something to keep our happy lab happy. She knows that it’s all by employee contribution. I don’t want to single her out, but some are talking about hiding their supplies away so she can’t use them. If that’s the next step, we won’t have our cute, homey ambiance that we love about our break room. She’s not exactly the friendliest person to approach. I hope you can help us come up with a way to sort of lay down the law without making her feel singled out or leave her defensive.

I think you’re better off just being straightforward with her, rather than trying to come up with clever wording or dancing around it. I’d say something like this: “Hey Jane, can we get you into our rotation for replenishing the cream? We’ve been taking turns stocking everything. Could you take Mondays?” Or if the issue is that she’s already part of the rotation but just bringing in far less than she’s using up, then say this: “Hey Jane, it looks like you’re going through the cream really quickly. Can you grab some extras to bring in?”

If she bristles, then you ignore the bristling and just say, “Yeah, we go through a lot and want to make sure it’s evenly distributed among the people using it. Thanks.”


4. I panicked and said I was interning somewhere that hadn’t hired me

I’m a recent college graduate and a couple months ago I reached out to a woman, “Claire,” who is one year older and who works at a company I’m very interested in. Claire agreed to get coffee and tell me about her career path. I felt like we had a fairly good back and forth, but when she asked me about my job experience, I kind of had a an insecure / panicky reaction where I felt like I haven’t done enough stuff with my life. I ended up blurting that I’m currently interning at an organization that I had an interview scheduled at the next day.

It’s a small organization but well-known in our field, and to my horror Claire excitedly asked if I know her friend who works there. I back-pedaled and said something like, “Oh, I just, just started there so I’m still learning names,” etc. Honestly, the blip barely seemed to register to Claire, but it was hanging over me for the rest of the conversation. I tried to stay cool but at the end of our talk she told me that she’d be happy to recommend me to her company and to just shoot her my resume when I want to apply and she’ll forward it to the hiring manager. So long story short, I’m not sure what to do.

The interview the next day ended up going great (even though I was terrified the whole time that my interviewers would slam their fists on the table and demand to know why I told so-and-so’s friend that I already was an intern there) and a few weeks later they offered me the internship. So now I will be interning at the same place as Claire’s friend, but not till this summer. Do I still send Claire my resume and hope she forgets about the internship I mentioned? Do I include a note on the resume that I’ll be starting the internship this summer? Do I just apply to her company without emailing her? It’s a large corporation so it’s not like she’d know, but if she does recommend me to HR I’d have a way better chance of getting an interview. What’s your take? I know I’m an idiot.

Normally I’d say your resume shouldn’t include an internship you haven’t yet started, but in this case it makes sense to list it so that Claire doesn’t wonder where it is. You could just put “summer 2019” for the dates, or even “summer 2019 (hired).”

Hopefully Claire won’t recall your conversation so word-for-word that she realizes you said you were currently working there (and if she does, will probably just assume she misunderstood). And while “I’m still learning names” is a little weird about a place you haven’t begun working at, it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility — I could see an intern saying something like that, figuring they had learned some names already (like the people they interviewed with). So, a little awkward but definitely not as awkward as if you hadn’t been hired! Since some time has passed and this wasn’t a major focus of your conversation, there’s a pretty good chance that it won’t seem terribly weird.

The bigger thing is to make sure you reflect on why this happened and how you want to handle moments like that in the future. Also, know that it’s totally okay that you haven’t done a lot yet! That’s very normal for intern stage and you shouldn’t feel insecure about it … and actually, being up-front and humble about that is a lot more appealing than entry-level people who try to cover that up.


Read an update to this letter here.

{ 455 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    The same reminder I needed to post when letter #1 was printed initially is apparently still needed now: Please do not tell letter writer #1 that she and her coworkers should just sit more “modestly,” or with her ankles crossed all day, or that they need to buy entirely new wardrobes, or that you yourself wear skirts and aren’t bothered by this. Bodies are different, skirts can be different, and what we know is that the LW and her coworkers are bothered by it.

  2. Anonymous badger*

    As someone who only occasionally wears a skirt, I’m having some trouble understanding the skirt/desk issue in #1. In my head it would just be like sitting in a normal chair without a desk in front of you, and if I couldn’t do that with enough modesty I wouldn’t be wearing the outfit to work.
    Or is it that there’s a sort of outfit where one could sit decently in a desk-less chair by sitting carefully, but at one’s desk one would rather get comfortable?

    1. KateM*

      I was wondering the same – I’d think that they sit in other places during day as well (bus? cafeteria?), and how do they manage that? I guess it must be a sit-comfortably-for-8-hours issue. But if the only way I could sit comfortably in an outfit meant exposing my underwear, you are right, I wouldn’t wear that outfit to places where I don’t want to expose my underwear.

      1. Jojo*

        My last office had glass walls and fancy “modesty-board”-less desks. And my first thought was – clearly, a man picked these (true), and my second thought was – where would I hide if there was an active shooter (thankfully never relevant).
        I think most women hate the open front desks because (1) if you wear a skirt, you have to sit cross legged on display, instead of relaxing, and (2) every woman I know stores an insane number of heels under the desk.

        1. Jojo*

          As an aside – I hate glass offices. I’m sure we are going to look back in a few years, and be like – wow, that was dumb what were we thinking?!!
          The men designing my old office thought it was just so slick and modern. Then a few women were like – uh, where would you like us to pump breast milk? And then men were like – uh UH [stare at floor uncomfortably]
          And this lead to a huge stupid redesign where one conference room was specially designed with fancy blinds, and so nursing mothers were supposed to kick everyone out and dramatically pull the blinds to announce **breasts out**
          Shockingly, that made female professionals uncomfortable, and they started hiding in cars and bathrooms to pump.
          So dumb

          1. bamcheeks*

            We’re re-watching The Good Wife at the moment and I keep thinking, uh GREAT idea, have that super confidential meeting in the large glass conference room where everyone is walking past going, “Oooh, she’s meeting HIM, and he looks ANGRY!”

            1. ferrina*

              I worked somewhere that had mostly glass walls for conference rooms, and yeah, people always knew who was meeting with who. Thankfully the HR office was one of the few places with real walls.

          2. TechWorker*

            A lot of our offices have glass walls (there is a pumping room that does not, though more by chance than by design given there is precisely one woman who’s needed to use it). It’s because the central bit is open plan & the meeting rooms around the outside – it would be so much darker & less pleasant to work with normal walls.

          3. Natebrarian*

            A number of years ago I worked with someone who’s legally blind. Let me tell you, the glass wall thing is a NIGHTMARE for folks with visual impairments.

          4. Charlotte Lucas*

            I worked somewhere that installed glass-walled conference rooms in order to “show transparency.” Well, they were in one of the places non-employees could walk by and the closest conference rooms to HR. My first thought when I saw them was what a privacy/confidentiality nightmare that could be. (We had government contracts and often dealt with information covered by HIPAA.)

            Within a few months, they had quietly frosted the glass. No big announcement this time.

            1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

              Yes the glass walls are frosted so passers by don’t see in but certainly not sound proof enough that we can’t hear SO AND SO’S FULL ASS NAME DID AN EMBARRASSING CRIME

              1. JustaTech*

                Oh man, the lack of sound proofing!
                Whenever we have a new person start who gets an office with these silly sliding glass doors I make sure to tell them “hey, the door only muffles sound, so when it’s quiet I can hear 80% of what you’re saying. I try not to listen, but I want you to know it’s not very private.”

                I miss offices with doors and cubes with walls…

          5. Sneaky Squirrel*

            Yes, our company was insistent that we needed the glass offices to be more connected and because it allows for more lighting through the office. I can’t stand it. I’m in phone/webcam meetings often and people will just knock on my windows mid meeting to try to talk to me, which requires me to waive them away. I also have sensitive conversations with staff in my office. Nothing better for that person than me giving them information that may put them in tears and having the entire office walking by and waving hi!

            And may I never need it but there is no place in my office that I could hide from an active shooter. (I do have a modesty panel on my desk but it’s more of an opaque glass and it doesn’t reach the floor so it would be a pretty weak hiding spot).

        2. Punkin*

          Yeah, we have glass walls too and I hate it. When my employer did this renovation, they also installed a dramatic glass staircase at the front of the building next to a dramatic multi-story window so not only could your coworkers get an eyefull, so could the general public. They quickly went back and frosted all the stairs for obvious reasons.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Ha this letter reminds me that my office spent a fortune (money that surely could have gone a long way towards the staff morale) installing a central floating staircase which, due to the glass reception area, gave everyone a view right up the skirts of anyone trying to actually use the stairs. All of us women had to take the elevator up one floor if we forgot to dress in slacks. Bonus: the sound of shoes clacking on the stairs made anyone in reception automatically look up even if we knew we shouldn’t.

          2. Jojo*

            Omg a glass staircase is so dumb it’s almost like an SNL skit. Why stop there?! What about a glass floor men’s room with glass urinals?!? SO MODERN SLEEK SOPHISTICATED! You’ll be the envy of every firm.

        3. lilsheba*

          Yeah not me I don’t do heels and don’t store them anywhere lol. But on the glass wall front, my job that I had for 12 years moved 3 times, and the last place it was moved to was open cubicles and glass rooms everywhere. It was like being a in a fishbowl and I hated it, I felt like I had NO where to hide or have some damn privacy!! Also I never wore skirts to work precisely because I have to be comfortable. It’s ESSENTIAL.

          1. birb*

            Some women never wear pants to work because they have to be comfortable. Or for religious reasons. Or because their body makes it expensive to find trousers that are office appropriate. It’s ESSENTIAL.

            Hope this helps.

      2. birb*

        Other places people tend to sit for long periods of time usually don’t face outwards to others, with the exception of the bus, which at least in my country / city is not the norm for the vast majority of office workers due to poor infrastructure. People don’t need to get under the seats very often to plug things in on buses, or in cafeterias, because they’re not functional office spaces where people need to plug and unplug electronics regularly.

        Also, some people don’t care if others see their underwear, or don’t have the presence of mind at all times to check “can others see my underwear in the position I’m used to sitting in at work?” while also being productive, which means lots of people seeing lots more than they should have to at work.

        The issue is that a manager (who likely has an office that isn’t in the common area) chose price or aesthetics over functionality in a way that didn’t consider the needs of some their employees, and would rather everyone change their behavior than fix it. I’m surprised to see so many people in the comments who think the skirt-wearers should just buy more modest clothes or change they way they naturally sit at work to be more modest if they don’t want to be exposed. Not a good look.

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Yes, just read through the original comments and OP confirmed the boss who made the decision was a man with his own office and a desk that still had a modesty panel.

    2. lisajane*

      This issue confused me as well, I can’t visualise the desk set up in which they’re not provided modesty, I’m picturing the same set up as Anonymous Badger. I wear skirts or dresses every day for work, and if I’m ever debating on the shortness of a hem, I’ll sit on a chair in the store to ensure it’s not too short when sitting away from a desk (which is usually the situation in meetings with my boss). If it’s not modest enough to sit in a chair without a desk, then I’m not wearing it to work anyway…

      1. Artemesia*

        having to sit with ankles crossed or knees pressed together at a slant all day while you work rather than comfortably without a thought to whether your crotch is exposed sounds uncomfortable. The worker should not have to worry about this nonsense while sitting at a desk and working.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’m sitting right now with both feet on the ground quite comfortably and you wouldn’t be able to see up my skirt. I’m in an office so I don’t think about it that much but I still find this confusing.

          1. metadata minion*

            It probably depends a lot on how you sit and the particular angle your legs tend to fall into in a chair.

          2. K8T*

            It your skirt is knee length – you are going to be able to see your crotch once you sit down and aren’t crossing your legs. Obviously that doesn’t happen it you have a midi or maxi skirt.

          3. DameB*

            Different bodies behave differently. Even when I was young and thin, if I wore a skirt that wasn’t well past my knees, the way my hips worked meant that if I was sitting, my knees naturally wanted to come apart. I had to sit with my legs crossed so I didn’t flash. This, my friend, is why I don’t wear skirts but it’s not unreasonable for someone with a similar build to want to wear skirts and not have to sit un-ergonomically all damned day.

          4. birb*

            I am currently sitting exactly that way in a skirt that is firmly business casual and if someone bent over anywhere in this room, or saw me from 20 feet away, they’d get a full view if my desk didn’t have a modesty panel.

          5. BB*

            I have literally never had a desk setup low enough that I could sit with my feet flat on the ground. I’d be sitting there with my legs dangling all day.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              Same. And sitting with my legs crossed or tucked “modestly” to the side just means some part of my body will go numb after about 10 minutes.

            2. Freya*

              My boss ensured I had a footrest (and quietly organised for my footrest to be repaired when she noticed before I did that I’d broken it pushing off of it – it got repaired rather than replaced because it was a certainty that I’d bust the replacement in exactly the same way if it wasn’t reinforced) because my legs dangle too. I also have a chair that’s a different model to everyone else, because the chair that’s comfy for my coworkers is too deep in the seat and leaves me with either a gap between me and the lumbar support or no blood flow past the knees that are wedged against the front of the seat!

          6. Mmsob*

            I never sit with my legs crossed at work. Frankly, I shouldn’t have to worry about it, because the desks should be there with modesty in mind. Blaming the women for this is a weird reaction – and yes, that’s what these comments are.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              *eyeroll* asking for clarification isn’t blaming anyone. Visualizing an issue you haven’t experienced as described in text can be difficult. Especially, as I said, as I am sitting “with my feet on the floor” (not with legs crossed) and don’t have this problem.

              1. Andromeda*

                I think a lot of people are reacting to the *number* of people who are jumping to “but wait, I don’t personally experience this problem” rather than offering the OP actionable advice.

                To be honest, I don’t think you’re blaming either, but I think there is a fair bit of concern-trolling “wait, just tell me *how this could possibly be an issue for anyone*” going on, plus a few people insinuating that the women are dressed improperly because they’re not wearing trousers, their skirts must be too short etc. Really I think it’s a silly thing to quibble over. Why would OP bother to write the letter if it wasn’t an issue?

    3. Gemstones*

      I wear skirts and dresses a lot, and I have no clue either. It would never even occur to me that I would need a “modesty board” while sitting at a desk…

      1. Allonge*

        Eh, there is a reason a bunch of desks have them.

        We had e.g. reference desks at a library first without the modesty boards. Large space, so what you have under the table is very visible – it gets uncomfortable really fast (regardless of what you wear, really) as you need to be conscious of your lower half in ways you don’t when you have a desk that provides some coverage.

        Sure, it’s less of an issue if you have pants on, but even then, it’s not a given that comfortable seating position = something visually non-distacting. And frankly, I don’t want people looking at my well-covered crotch either.

        1. Gemstones*

          But wouldn’t you have to be conscious of your lower half if you weren’t at a desk? I wear skirts when I’m not at work, and I don’t feel like I have to make an effort to make sure people don’t see anything.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            ‘But wouldn’t you have to be conscious of your lower half if you weren’t at a desk? ‘

            I think it’s just easy to forget that a desk or table is missing a modesty panel when you get focused on your work. Or maybe your brain thinks a solid surface equals an enclosed workspace or something like that.

            Whatever the reason, it affects men and women. I’ve seen women sitting at a panel-less desk or table in a manner that displayed their underwear and, in one notable incident, a garter and stockings ensemble. I’ve also seen men scratch and dig in a way that would make a Major League player proud. I don’t think they were exhibitionists, they just forgot they were more visible than usual.

            1. Smithy*

              Absolutely this.

              I also think this assumption of the skirts needing to be very short for this to be a problem is also not quite the point. There are a number of professionally boring skirts that end just above or below the knee, that once you sit down can easily ride up more than you think. And while we might immediately think to the desire to now show our underpants at work, I’m also not keen to show the gusset of my tights….

              I’ve also been to plenty of conferences/workshops where you sit in a chair (no modesty panel) and will dress to exclude certain outfits because of how much more effort it takes to sit like that for an extended period as “modestly” as I want to for hours during the day. And while this topic may immediately bring to mind the worst of “crotch shots”, it can just be about how when seated an outfit can show more thigh than you’d prefer unless you sit with your right leg cross but not your left based on the cut of a slit.

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            I wear skirts all the time, but I also sit in ways that are comfortable to me when I am at my desk working. I don’t want to spend that brainpower having to worry about how I sit for 8 hours.

          3. ferrina*

            I’m someone that twitches and prefers to sit with my legs tucked up (half lotus or criss-cross applesauce). When I got my own cubicle with a bit of privacy, it meant that I could sit however I wanted while I worked and I didn’t have to think about it. When I’m in an open office, I have to be more cognizant. If I sit or twitch how I want, it’s often distracting for my coworkers. It means part of my brain is always on appearances, less of my brain is on work.

          4. Allonge*

            Thta’s exactly my point though – I don’t want to have to be conscious of this when I am just sitting at my desk, working, minding my own business. I want to be comfortable. If a thin panel can achieve this, why not?

        2. chewingle*

          Tbh, I always thought the point was to hide cords/keep cords from multiple desks from tangling together (if the desks are shoved against each other).

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              And they are on desks that predate computers.

              A lot of newer desk designs use them to also hide cords and put a little shelf in to hold them.

            2. fhqwhgads*

              FWIW I never heard them called that until I read this letter (the first time it was published). I always thought they were just “the back of the desk panel”. Like, in my mind what distinguishes a table at which one might work, and a desk is…that piece.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I always knew them as design elements for structural integrity. A lot of woodworking is effectively building cubes/three-dimensional boxes.

                I’m following the conversation very closely; hearing the different perspectives is very informative.

              2. Daisy-dog*

                Yes, I did not know “modesty boards” existed until after reading this letter, but then I never thought about it again until today. I thought they were structural to the desk from my limited experience building Ikea furniture.

                1. Carol the happy elf*

                  You can build IKEA furniture!?
                  (Bows respectfully and seeks for other wisdoms you possess, in this forum.)

                2. GrumpyPenguin*

                  I haven’t heard that term before too. So far I’ve only had either desks with built-in boards or something like big pin boards seperating the desks that were used to display information sheets or stuff like that.

              3. But what to call me?*

                I’d never heard the term before today, or given those boards any thought. Cubicle walls, on the other hand… Now those I am highly invested in. If we can’t have real walls, at least give us some decent person-sized boards so we can work without worrying that others might be watching us fidgeting or reading something into our facial expressions.

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  If I had a nickel for every coworker who has done the “Wilson from Home Improvement” routine…

              4. Shynosaur*

                Also literally never heard this term before. I just always called them “those annoying things that are the reason I have permanent indentations on my shins” >_< If I had a dollar for every time I've banged my shin into it, I could retire.

                I haven't worn a skirt since childhood, but I can't imagine going out in public in anything short enough to reveal underwear when sitting down. Of course, I stopped wearing skirts as soon as I was old enough to put my foot down because I feel naked in them lol. Even as a kid, I always put on shorts under them.

                1. Dahlia*

                  Knee-length. Short enough to reveal underwear when sitting down, when someone else is crouched under their desk and at eye level with your crotch, is knee-length. Knee-length is a perfectly acceptable length of skirt to go out in.

              5. Heather*

                yeah I’m not thrilled about office furniture being designed to protect my “modesty” (eye roll emoji goes here). can’t we just call it a desk panel or something?

                1. Allonge*

                  Nothing’s stopping you to do that, of course.

                  If I had to guess, they call it that because in a lot of desk designs it has no other function, and also the English language likes to name things. Why do we call a certain type of shoe Mary Janes?

              6. Annie*

                Yes, I had never heard them called that. Most of the time I’ve just thought they were there and in the way whenever we needed to access outlets if the desks were facing a wall in an office.

      2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        I think how the desks are arranged is a big difference. I worked in an office where the desks were basically just tables, and never thought about it, but pretty much everyone used a layout where the desks were against walls, or where they were in “islands” so that there was more horizontal surface to provide cover, even if there wasn’t a vertical panel. And people who used different layouts often added a couch or bookshelf in front of the desk, though not explicitly for modesty.

        If I imagine trying to work somewhere like a reception desk, or a reference desk at a library, where there’s a bit open space in front of you and people walk up from 20+ feet away, working at just a table feels pretty exposed and I wouldn’t like it either.

    4. Nocturna*

      As someone who occasionally wears knee-length pencil skirts, I’m assuming that’s the type of skirt in question, since they’re the hardest to navigate in terms of modesty. Basically, for that type of skirt, if you’re sitting in a place without some sort of “shielding” (table, chairs in front of you, modesty board, etc.), you have to be careful to keep your knees together pretty much at all times or you risk someone seeing upskirt without trying.* But that sort of care is not something that would be reasonable to expect people to do for eight hours a day every day, not least because if that’s not your natural sitting position, it does take a certain amount of concentration to maintain.

      *I tend to wear fully opaque tights so I don’t have to worry about accidentally flashing anyone, but not everyone likes the look of opaque tights or even wears tights.

      1. Clare*

        That’s it. Some skirts require active effort to retain your privacy in, and some fields have those kind of skirts as the uniform. Add in the fact that some people (such as myself) don’t like people seeing their shape even through fully opaque tights and that workplace is going to have a few very stiff and sore people by the end of the day.

    5. WS*

      They do mention people using floor plugs having a view under all the desks, so I’m guessing this is somewhere where people are getting things at floor level frequently which is making the skirt-wearers uncomfortable. My thighs are wide enough that this isn’t a problem for me, but if you’re average to thin, wearing not-particularly voluminous skirt and are sitting without keeping your knees together (as you might at a desk for long periods of time) there is indeed a clear view up the skirt. It was one of the reasons I used to protest against our school uniform as a teenager – boys (and one particular teacher) liked to “accidentally” drop things and go down to get them to look up girls’ skirts.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        This makes sense, that people are often at an unusually low eye level, because it’s not usual for someone sitting or standing near someone else who is sitting, especially at a desk or table, to have a sight line in the area of the seated person’s knees.

        Conversely, my office has some work stations similar to high tops at a bar or like standing desks but with raised chairs. Those would be a problem in this scenario.

        So the seats could be unusually high or there’s lots of stooping over, making eyes unusually low.

      2. birb*

        Yeah I can’t even imagine how great of a day the office creeps had when these desks came in. Hope it wasn’t the manager who ordered them.

    6. Emmy Noether*

      Joining the chorus: I wear skirts and dresses a lot, and I have never had a modesty panel on a desk, nor have I felt the need to have one. Last two jobs had those sitting/standing convertible desks, those never seem to have modesty boards. As a life-long skirt wearer, I just sort of… got used to moving and sitting in a way that doesn’t flash anyone, including on public transport and parc benches where there’s nothing at all in front of me and it’s in public.

      A normal desk shields the view from most angles, so one doesn’t have to keep one’s legs closed/crossed the whole day. How frequently do people crawl around the floor at your office? Because if that’s more than, like, twice a day for a minute, maybe think about a solution so that’s not necessary. That, or wear longer skirts or trousers.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        People should not have to change their wardrobe because someone bought some bad desks. Has anyone noticed how hard it is to get decent clothes these days? I’ve been shopping for two years since I got my new job, and still haven’t found everything I need.
        No one needs that additional task!
        I bet the desks were bought on sale because no one else wanted them.

        1. TechWorker*

          To be fair I think some of us don’t see them as ‘bad desks’. We switched from older ones with modesty boards (tbh I had no idea that was their name or purpose until today) to ones without & I didn’t give it a second thought. I wear skirts & dresses plenty. In the unusual circumstance someone needs to crawl around at floor level near my desk to plug something in I’d just get up for a bit, because that can feel a bit weird regardless of what you’re wearing?

          1. Clisby*

            Glad to know I’m not the only one who never heard of a modesty board until today. After googling, I know what it is – but it had never occurred to me that “modesty” was the reason for them.

            1. sparkle emoji*

              IME, they often seem to serve a dual purpose of modesty/privacy and cord organizer, which I had thought was the primary purpose until today.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I think whether one sees it as a “bad desk” depends on what one is used to. When 99% of desks (all except the old clunky ones with no legroom) one has seen don’t have it… one doesn’t see it as a bad desk. Especially since the convertible ones don’t tend to have one, and those are generally seen as desirable!

      2. Phryne*

        I’m sorry, but this is skating rather close to ‘because it is not a problem for me it is not a problem for anyone’. OP clearly states that it is a problem at their place of work, why would you react with ‘I cannot imagine this being a problem’?
        I can think of various office configurations where this can be a problem. Split levels mainly, as soon as you have different levels, you will people standing lower see angles under desks you would not normally have. Also, modern desks are a lot less deep than old ones because monitors have shrunk, so if a desk is positioned in such a way that you can see the non-sitting end form a distance you can see under it.
        Sitting with your legs crossed or knees firmly pressed together is not a very ergonomic position for work, especially not for hours (I’m officially not allowed to sit with my legs pressed together by my physiotherapist btw).
        And telling people ‘just wear longer skirts or trousers’ is especially weird and shaves really close to policing women’s attire. Having a skirt shorter than knee length has not been scandalous for about a century now.

        1. Peter*

          Adding in that in all of my workplace we have had cubicles (Silicon Valley / South SF Bay Area, and tech companies). In some people collaborate turning their chairs to the aisle to interact with others in cubicles. These settings mean women who wear a knee length skirt/dress, will, depending on body type, be flashing their undies.

          A woman a couple of generations younger than me was always doing so, in our mixed gendered cubicle area. She didn’t really care, unfortunately, as I spoke to her about it (as I am also a woman).

          I think no one ever raised the issue as facilities design problem. I realize I didn’t.

      3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Park bench or bus is different. You’re seated and someone is walking near you. That’s not the same as someone being at a lower level than you (using a plug or if the desks are on a higher level than an approaching staircase for example leads to them). Would you sit at a park bench with someone picnicking on the grass 10 feet away and feel as confident?

    7. Ellis Bell*

      Basically, whenever your deskmate plugs something in (on the floor), they’ll be staring head on at your groin. The space must also be so big that instead of just seeing desk tops when you walk through, you can see people’s crotch area up ahead, when walking through, much like they’re on a stage. So, yeah, your last sentence then comes into effect. Lots of skirts can’t deal with a stage level of exposure – anything knee length, and even a bit longer really if you’re sitting comfortably I definitely sit differently if I have nothing in front of me. This usually doesn’t matter in most business environments because everyone sits at desks together in small areas, or in large areas there are modesty panels. If you’re with someone and it’s chairs only, it’s usually only for a very brief time.

      1. Flor*

        Yeah, there’s a big difference in exposure in something like a pencil skirt when other people’s eyes are at the skirt-wearer’s eye level versus when other people’s eyes are at the skirt-wearer’s groin level. The skirt fabric tends to be pulled taut between the hips, so if another person’s eyes are at that hip level, there’s a straight line directly to the crotch between the tops of the thighs, even if the skirt wearer’s legs are clamped together. So a skirt can be perfectly fine for sitting in a chair facing another person in a chair, but not fine for sitting at a desk with someone crawling around in front of the desk.

      2. Ama*

        I know this is an old letter, but if the floor plugs are the main reason this is uncomfortable for the skirt-wearers in the office I think this could be solved by buying extra power cords.

        Since we went to a hybrid schedule this year, my office actually bought everyone extra power cords and docking stations for their laptops, so you can leave one power cord at the office and have one for WFH/travel, which also reduces the amount of crawling under the desk that happens (we have actual cubicles with walls, but the desktops are pretty deep so it’s a real pain to have to crawl under it to get to the outlets).

    8. Be Gneiss*

      The LWs request is really very reasonable. Why are we doing this thing where we imply her skirts are too short or she must sit immodestly or something?? It’s really weird that everyone is piling on to say*they’ve* never needed a modesty panel.

      1. Kat*


        Also, I’m happy to state that I wear dresses to work and I need to pull my chair right up to the desk and recline back in order to sit and work comfortably. Without the modesty panel, I would feel really uncomfortable and like I needed to keep pulling the skirt down or re-arranging the fabric constantly. Modesty panels are a default for a reason.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          The traditional “man in charge” desk has a solid piece of wood at the front, so I guess we could say that old rich guys need the most modesty? (I know that those types of desks are designed like that for different reasons, but I think an entire analysis could be done on why those traditionally are solid desks made of good pieces of wood, while women are being seen as extra for just wanting a measly panel.)

      2. Allonge*

        I agree – I think if someone never had a desk issue with this, they don’t get that it’s only, like, 15% about ‘modesty’ in the sense that people should not see up my skirt. It’s not exactly a red herring – it really can be an issue – but close.

        For the questioners on how long someone’s skirts are – how conscious are you of what you are doing with your legs / feet when sitting at a desk? We had discussions here on professional sitting (legs under you, crossed, needing something to put your legs on), on people needing to move (tapping your feet, bouncing your knees), on people being distracted by other people moving. Certainly when you are sitting somewhere for 8+ hours, you need more options than genteel crossing of legs / ankles. Same for men, by the way!

        Not having some privacy for your lower half is an issue! And not just when you are in short skirts.

        1. amoeba*

          Guess it’s just a matter of what you’re used to! I actually had to google “modesty board” and can confirm that I have, indeed, never seen one and was unaware they existed. Just not a thing here – but yeah, I guess that does mean we (Germans and Swiss) are not used to having our lower body hidden, anyway, and are probably also used to seeing somebody’s general (covered) crotch area in case we have to go to the floor for some reason.

          1. bamcheeks*

            It also depends on your typical desk configuration. Most if the desks I’ve had have them, but nearly every desk I’ve worked at has been put up against the wall or against another desk so I’m facing someone sat opposite me. I’ve never worked in an office where people can be stood opposite my desk and see what’s underneath!

          2. Charlotte Lucas*

            Watch an old movie, and you’ll see them. It’s basically a compromise between a desk with a full front (meant to be faced by others who are seated) and a table. They’re more common in a bullpen-type office. But I worked at on in a call center. You just didn’t see the panel, because another desk was up against it. (This also helped keep people’s legs on their own side.)

          3. Umami*

            Same. I googled it, and the desks I saw with modesty boards are actually something I would call a table lol. I’ve never had or seen a desk that was open in front, so I truly was puzzled by what it was (and I’ve been in the workforce for 35 years, so apparently I’ve always just been in offices with very traditional office furniture where every desk was made with a front). This was interesting to hear about and completely reasonable to expect to have as part of a desk.

      3. OP#1*

        Hi, OP1 (UK based, please excuse any phrasing differences) here and remember many of the comments when this was originally published were very concerned with my general skirt length and the inability to sit ‘modestly’ for a fully working day.
        When in the office, I wore black tights and knee length pencil skirts. (I couldn’t wear floor length as they got tangled in the chair wheels and didn’t own any mid-calf length skirts as they are not my style.) The knee length skirts were modest and professional and would inevitably shift around a little as I sat in my chair, and I really didn’t want to be sitting with my knees clamped together at all times it just isn’t feasible.
        Plus, when moving around under the desk (something most of us did multiple times a day), we got an eye full of crotch – not great, regardless of gender or clothing.
        The desk height wasn’t enough for you to sit legs crossed for any length of time comfortably either, to create your own barrier.

        I’ve been working in office wear for years, have a more than suitable wardrobe, am aware of how to sit on benches and public transport in skirts and how to judge a hem length. The desks were a problem for multiple people in the office.

        In the end, we got new desks. Not because the senior team listened to the complaints, but because the new desks were ‘too small’ for him to spread all his papers out. The new desks included modesty boards

        1. Be Gneiss*

          thank you for the update, and I’m glad you got new desks (for whatever reason)!
          I will admit that this line of comments has me way too irritated for pre-6am, but they have the tone of blaming a woman for how she was dressed or how she was sitting if she wants to keep creeps (or just regular people trying to plug in their laptops or space heaters) from looking up her skirt, and I really expected better from this comments section.

          1. Solstice*

            Likewise! I almost never comment but this is extremely frustrating.

            If anyone is uncomfortable with their desk, especially for feeling exposed, then the employer needs to just change the damn desk!

          2. ferrina*

            Really glad you ended up getting new desks, OP!
            And yeah, seriously, it’s frustrating that people are taking issue with what sounds like really normal office wear. The solution shouldn’t be “buy a new wardrobe that you may or may not be able to afford, even though your current wear is normal and professional”. This is an issue of a space not being thought through or designed well.

          3. birb*

            I hope some of these comments get moderated or addressed, or maybe a note at the top to cut it out. It’s jarring when a space you see as progressive shows itself to harbor this kind of nonsense.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              Especially when “People are experts on their own situations and know more about their own circumstances than you do” is literally one of the commenting rules, along with “Be kind”.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          Thanks for chiming in again! Seconding Be Gneiss that I’m glad you got new desks with modesty boards, even if the reason wasn’t because management listened to your complaints.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            I had to double check and make sure that I wasn’t on Yahoo or something. WTH?

            Also, we had desks that were basically a flat on top of legs once. Those were swiftly adjusted as it was ridiculous to have to wear already uncomfortable clothing (business dress code) and then had to sit rigidly at the desk for 8 hours as though you were in Miss Prim’s finishing classes. Just….no.

        3. learnedthehardway*

          That’s a good update. Had you not gotten the modesty panels, I would personally have installed one myself – probably cardboard to start. Would have looked terrible, and might have inspired desk changes….

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Bonus points if affixed in a slapdash fashion with blue painter’s tape, with “This Side Up” or shipping label visible.

        4. Observer*

          In the end, we got new desks. Not because the senior team listened to the complaints, but because the new desks were ‘too small’ for him to spread all his papers out. The new desks included modesty boards

          Thanks for coming back into the comments. I remember the original, and all the comments about how people “should” be dressing to make this not a problem, and it was quite distressing.

          But this proves the point that a lot of us were trying to make – those were not standard office desks, and someone did not do their due diligence when making the purchase.

        5. Umami*

          Thanks for the update! I have never heard of the modesty panel thing, so I couldn’t really picture what was going on, but I’m glad you got new desks that solved the issue.

        6. Ms. Rogerina Meddows*

          Thanks for the update, OP1, and I’m glad you eventually got new desks, regardless of the reason! I’m sorry you felt the need to justify your reasoning for needing modesty panels on your desks, though, due to so many gross, sexist comments about completely appropriate, standard women’s work clothing. You would think that the commentariat would have improved in this regard in the last five years, but nope. The sexism is out in full force today. It reeks very much of asking women “What were you wearing?” when they talk about being catcalled or assaulted on the street, and it’s disgusting.

        7. Ellis Bell*

          The ridiculous desks were too ridiculous for the ridiculous man. Ah the satisfaction when the wheels of karma move quickly.

        8. Annie*

          I’m glad you got new desks, but it’s a little disappointing that it wasn’t because the senior team listened to your complaints.
          I work in manufacturing so we have to wear pants, so this has never been something I have thought of in the various desks that I’ve sat at.
          So perhaps the man who order the desks didn’t really think about it as well? Was it an otherwise harmless error rather than something done purposefully in spite of what was needed for the women in your office? I would hope so, but in that case, it seems like they would quickly work to fix the problem once they knew of its existence.

      4. boof*

        I think you are reading too much into people being confused – I too was a puzzled as I’m trying to imagine a skirt that you can’t sit in without flashing people; but I only wear skirts rarely (and usually the flowy kind) – once someone brought up pencil skirts I think it makes a bit more sense to me but I’ve never worn a pencil skirt and sort of assumed they forced you to keep your knees together at all times (I guess they are stretchier than I thought?)
        Yes I believe the LW but I was still puzzled trying to understand the extent of the problem

        1. Peon*

          Pencil skirts have more ease built into them than you’re imagining. If they were tight enough to keep your knees together, you wouldn’t be able to walk.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            They also have something called a kick panel, which allows the wearer a little more freedom of movement. Provided you remember to cut the thread holding it the first time you wear the skirt. As me how I know.

        2. Queer Earthling*

          Sometimes pencil skirts are stretchy and often they have a slit taken out of the side or back to give room to move, because people need to, y’know, walk, and not just hobble around like they’re doing one of those balloon races.

          1. Boof*

            Again it’s not my wardrobe choice and i thought maybe they were like high heels “mildly cumbersome; enough room to walk but not run” sort of way. Why yes i sideeye a lot of women’s fashion hard – i want pockets!!!!

            1. Boof*

              (And to be abundantly clear; i mean sideeye in terms of things i want to wear personally; not judging others if they have different preferences just don’t fully understand the mechanics/ needs)

            2. Nina*

              (I rarely wear ‘women’s’ office wear but just want to confirm that if your pencil skirt and high heels fit well and the heels are firmly secured to your foot, it can indeed be possible to run surprisingly fast in them.)

        3. ferrina*

          Pencil skirts do have a bit of give and/or a slit so they are comfortable to walk in, but they also tend to pull taut when you are sitting, meaning that you need to consciously keep your legs in certain positions to protect decency. Not an issue for 30-60 minutes, but a literal pain if you need to do it for 8 hours per day.
          Some of my pencil skirts also have a tendency to ride up when I sit. Again, usually not a problem when you sit for a little bit (they ride maybe an inch or two), but when I do the normal movements and readjustments over a longer period of time, they can ride up a little higher. Usually I just adjust it when I stand, but if my body was exposed for 8 hours per day, I would be so self-conscious. It would definitely impact my ability to focus on my work.

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            My bestie was a dental assistant in her early years; her bosses always wanted her to wear nurses’ uniform dresses, and specified the ones that were a bit looser (account at uniform store for employees to use as needed.)

            She wasn’t happy about trying to keep modest while passing instruments, but one (old guy) dentist told her that it was important, having her sit so the patient could have something interesting to distract him while his mouth was getting numb….
            She went to the uniform store that afternoon and bought several new uniform pantsuits, then began job hunting that weekend.

          2. boof*

            Got it, thanks for explaining – I’m at my desk now and realizing it’s just a top with no sideboard at work, but I have an office door that closes. IDK never really thought about it, hope office designers get the word just like bathrooms and ramps needs to be a board or wall for desks in the open!

        4. Daisy-dog*

          I like to wear knee-length A-line skirts and can imagine those also being annoying to control modestly for *all day*. Sometimes my skirts ride up in various ways as I shift in my sitting positions. (My thighs are ample enough to prevent any modesty issues and I also prefer to wear bike shorts underneath because of said ample thighs.)

        5. Ellis Bell*

          There are lots of different types of pencil skirt. Some have kicks in them, some are stretchy. I have a wool one that fits like a long slim jumper would, with plenty of give. Generally you should be able to walk in them!

      5. TechWorker*

        I think because of the desks are an issue for 50% of people or 5% of people that might make a difference to the response and likelihood of the office replacing an entire set of brand new desks (vs idk coming up with something specific for the small number of people who have a problem with it).

      6. darsynia*

        Thank you for saying this. I was getting increasingly concerned that the point was being missed. It’s great that this isn’t a concern for some folks! It’s a concern for the OP’s office, and there have been plenty of times across history when something has been implemented that folks didn’t think mattered much and it turned out to be a good thing. Open plan offices are bad enough without having to be conscious about this–and it’s particularly difficult to change your behavior (or your wardrobe?? come ON) mid-stream, once you’ve already gotten into a routine.

        Also good to remember that even if nothing is showing, some folks might be concerned that it COULD. Implying ‘oh well your clothing choices are probably indecent’ is a bit wild, considering the varying workspaces out there (not directed at the person I’m threaded under).

      7. Narrative plus*

        Yeah, it would be nice if everyone would read Alison’s top comment on the original post, because they’re doing the exact same thing here.

      8. JenLP*

        This is exactly what happened when it was originally published. I was hoping five years would’ve helped us learn but nope. Modesty panels are good not just for skirt/dress wearing but also for those that might be accused of looking. It’s just good business sense to have something there.

      9. Dahlia*

        If you check out the original post, Allison had to put a note telling people to stop doing just this, implying that people are dressing unprofessionally or not sitting “correctly”.

      10. Awlbiste*

        Thank you! I wear dresses every day and a desk with no modesty panel would make me very uncomfortable. I’m not sitting around flashing people but I don’t want to have to save a part of my brain power to constantly make sure I’m sitting in a certain way every second.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Same here, and not just brainpower, but physical stress. The ergonomics of not being able to relax your lower body for 8 hours are terrible.

      11. Dust Bunny*

        Good lord, this.

        If they need the panels, they need the panels. You don’t have to be wearing a miniskirt for this to be an issue, and women shouldn’t also have to worry about how they’re sitting and moving all day while wearing a completely-normal item of clothing. I favor longer, fuller, skirts myself, but I can think of some workplaces where they would be too casual.

        1. Freya*

          I need the panels at my work, not because of my modesty, but because there’s a large pile of folders leaning up against one to my left – without the panel, those folders would be piled on my desk instead of on the floor, and there is no room on my excessively capacious desk for that!

          Under my own desk is my handbag, jumper, three bins (gross stuff, shredding, and recycling), a heater (modesty panel keeps the warms in a bit), parasol, and footrest. All that stuff has no need to be on display to all and sundry.

    9. Llama Llama*

      As someone who wears dresses 99% of the time I 100% understand. There is a huge difference of how I sit at my desk and how to sit when I am in the front row at at event. I was cringing for these poor women. Yes there is a way to do it but its not sustainable to do 8 hours a day.

      1. Peon*

        Even when I’m not wearing a skirt, I’d cringe at the idea of my lower half being “on display” all day. And I really don’t want an eyeful of some guy man spreading at his desk either. Modesty panels for all! lol

        1. Frankly, Mr. Shankly*

          at an awful job in my early 20s, I was a receptionist and when we moved offices the owner *specifically* picked a table style reception desk because (as a coworker overheard and told me) “those legs shouldn’t be covered”. The legs in question were mine and I was sooooooo grossed out.

    10. Observer*

      and if I couldn’t do that with enough modesty I wouldn’t be wearing the outfit to work.

      Which means that all of the women in the office are being expected to change how they dress – which is not an insignificant burden- because someone decided to not get standard office furniture. Even at the time the original letter ran, it was simply not true that you can’t have computer equipment with cables on desks with modesty panels.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        The “problems with computer cables” argument seemed especially suspicious given that most of the “modesty panels” I’ve seen have attached cable organizers. Before this letter, that’s what I thought the purpose of the panel was.

    11. Umami*

      Yes, I am confused, too. I wear skirts/dresses often (I’m wearing one right now) and I’m having trouble visualizing a way to sit at any desk that would expose too much? Maybe they are saying that if someone leans down to use a floor plug they would be able to see under a skirt, but that seems like a problem with the positioning of the floor plug, not the desk?

      1. Ellis Bell*

        You’re probably confused because people can’t see under your offices desks; offices are usually arranged so you can’t. These were thin desks in a a large open space, so more like sitting at a window perch in a coffee shop than at a wide dining table. When narrow desks without fronts are at the head of an open space, modesty panels are often employed.

    12. Wouldn’t you like to know*

      So, instead of recognizing the problem where most skirt wearers feel uncomfortable, your decision as a manager would be to tell them to wear pants?

      If I wasn’t allowed privacy at my desk space to sit comfortably, then I’d bring a pair of sweat pants to wear while sitting at my desk every day. If they can’t give me proper furniture, then I won’t wear proper clothes.

      1. Bear Expert*

        I have also seen a group response to duct tape brightly colored fabric around the desk – think neon paisleys and loud mis matching plaids, every desk a different eyesore. That office had been told that modesty panels would interrupt the aesthetics of the vision for the space. (The desks could be fitted with modesty panels, it was an option the designer had declined)

        The fabric drape even allowed coverage down to the floor, so people could sit cross legged and leave their shoes under their desks and other civilized and human maneuvers to survive a work day.

        It was kind of sad when the modesty panels got installed.

        Privacy is a human need. We have different thresholds and comfort levels and ways we’ve developed to cope with modern life, but “I would like my legs to not be public display while I work a non leg model job” is a totally reasonable and supportable boundary.

        1. Observer*

          I have also seen a group response to duct tape brightly colored fabric around the desk – think neon paisleys and loud mis matching plaids, every desk a different eyesore. That office had been told that modesty panels would interrupt the aesthetics of the vision for the space. (The desks could be fitted with modesty panels, it was an option the designer had declined)

          I LOVE the response.

          But was this a decent place to work? This is the kind of thing you expect from folks who don’t employees as *people* but rather interchangeable droids.

          1. Allonge*

            No, this is unfortunately common ‘designer’ thinking – practicalities (especially for women) are for peasants, I have an Artistic Vision.

            1. Observer*

              No, this is unfortunately common ‘designer’ thinking – practicalities (especially for women) are for peasants, I have an Artistic Vision.

              Absolutely not. *Good* designers generally do not think this way. At least not if they are commercially successful. Any boss who buys into this wannabe “designer thinking” is probably not a good boss.

              1. Allonge*

                I agree that good designers don’t think like this but – have you been reading this thread?

                Desks with the same problem abound, a significant number of women cannot purchase trousers and the conclusion is that *their body is weird* instead of clothes design being a mess… Seems like a major lack of good designers.

              2. Phryne*

                The designer who redesigned one of our educational buildings thought it would not be a problem of have a glass wall in the space where the mostly female physiotherapy students practiced on each other. Right opposite of the machine workshop which also had a glass wall. Guess the majority gender of the users of that space. And it took weeks for action to be taken, they had to tape flip-over sheets to the glass.
                Bad designers exist unfortunately, and get big jobs. Not all of them obviously, but the users of commercial spaces rarely are the ones picking the designer or ok-ing the plans.

          2. Bear Expert*

            I don’t think the initial adherence to the designer’s vision was due to inhumanity, I think it was a weird deference to perceived authority? The facilities people were given a budget for an office uplift and hired a designer because they wanted to Do It Right and they wanted to listen to the advice of their hired expert.

            Any change gets complaints, because people are people, so the first response to “Hey, we don’t love being a floor show. We looked up these desks and they can have these panels added to them, can we do that?” was to parrot the hired expert’s response and frown at the budget. I don’t think that was necessarily the worst choice as a general compliant handling process, except that it ignored the validity of the issue and that the designer had gone a bit too far into designer land.

            Then there was the revolt and the great circus tent craft project invasion, and someone who could redirect budget focused on the issue long enough to figure out that fighting against the desire of people to cover their crotch at work was a hill to die on and could be addressed with $X and tolerating the designer’s disappointment in the project’s fidelity to their Vision.

    13. kiki*

      I think it’s the latter– the skirts are appropriate for the office, but you have to keep your legs crossed or knees together. This is hard to maintain for a full work day, especially if you’re deep in your work. It’s easy to get absorbed in something and forget about maintaining “proper sitting position” and modesty.

      It also sounds like the outlets are on the ground, so whenever someone needs to plug or unplug things, they’re going to be staring into the legs of whomever is across from them. That’s just not ideal, especially if the plugging and unplugging is somewhat frequent. If the desks had their own outlets and folks could plug all their devices in at desktop level, this would prove to be less of an issue.

      But I also think there might be more room to explore the modesty board/ cable tidy situation. Some modesty boards are made to work with cable tidies.

    14. Eliot Waugh*

      Removed — feel free to flag things that are problematic and I’ll take a look but I also don’t want people scolding other commenters to this degree. Thank you. – Alison

    15. samwise*

      Really? OP says, there’s no board blocking the view of the person sitting. In other words, a desk that’s open all around.

      Skirts ride up when you sit down. Not everyone is old enough to have been trained to “sit ladylike”= knees together, ankles together, and even those of us who were (ok boomer), find sitting that way for extended periods uncomfortable.

    16. morethantired*

      With the mention of “using a floor plug” it sounds like if you wanted to look up people’s skirts, you could simply make the excuse you were “plugging something in,” be on the ground, and get a view up nearby desks because they’re like tables, no front panel to obscure anything.
      It read as though the LW and her coworkers have reason to believe this is either a real risk or currently happening and, unfortunately, it seems easier to get desks with front panels rather than be able to stop anyone from using floor plugs as a flimsy excuse to peep at coworkers.

    17. Tricia McMillan*

      There’s a big difference between sitting on alert with your legs or ankles crossed and knees together, and the relaxed sort of sitting that I do at my desk all day. As someone who likes to wear dresses that hit right above my knee, I can both be perfectly capable of sitting “appropriately” in a seat out in the open and also want a modesty panel on my desk so I don’t have to sit with formal posture for 8 hours straight.

      Some of the discourse about this feels a bit like modesty policing. “It wouldn’t be a problem if you just dressed more appropriately.”

    18. Nina*

      So I used to sit in an office with desks like this (I wore skorts a lot, incidentally) and yeah, on the bus or in a desk-less chair or in a lot of other situations mentioned below, people are generally looking at you from above. The LW specifically calls out ‘people having to use floor plugs’ as one of the issues with the setup – if someone at a desk facing you, or in sightline of facing you, is accessing something under their own desk, yeah, they’re looking right up your skirt. A posture that would be perfectly ‘modest’ for 99% of all interactions isn’t going to work for, y’know, someone who is at eye level with your crotch. Front panels on the desks are important. fwiw, I got pretty good mileage out of a disposable tablecloth tacked to the back edge of my desk.

    19. Mmsob*

      Can we not blame women just one time? We should not be obligated to sit more precisely and properly than our peers 2080 hours a year.

    20. birb*

      As someone who only occasionally uses physical papers, I’m having some trouble understanding the papers/desk issue in #1. In my head it would be just like reading a book, just stack the papers on top of each other to take up less space, and if I couldn’t do that then I wouldn’t be using physical papers at work, I’d just go paperless and read from my computer monitor.

      1. Cyndi*

        I don’t know about OP1 or her boss, but most jobs I’ve had that still heavily involved paper were for tasks where things needed to be physically organized–reordering document packets, opening or putting together mail, sorting checks, etc. This takes up a lot of desk space and can’t be done on a computer.

        1. birb*

          I’m being petty and re-wrote the original top comment to be critical of the reason they were told the desks were finally replaced, that there wasn’t enough room for their papers because the new desks were too small.

          Surely reordering documents that are inanimate is easier than sitting in an uncomfortable, unhealthy posture for computer use for 8 hours a day.

    21. Always Tired*

      I used to work in a more business-y environ and rocked the knee length wool skirts on the regular. But I am, for lack of a better term, a little wiggle worm. I cannot sit still for long. I pop my ankle on my knee, cross my knees or ankles, feet together on the floor, feet apart, leg bouncing, you name it, I’ve done it all before noon. If this chair was any wider I would have one foot tucked up under me. When I wear skirts, I have to think about it all. the. time. Will my skirt ride up? are my legs too open? Are things showing? I have to think the whole bus ride, at the restaurant, during meetings. It’s just a waste of my already limited energy and executive function to try to control the ADHD wiggles. I mostly wear pants now, but you best believe I would kick up a fuss in a place where you could see under my desk while standing across the room. I also have the bonus of having a certified dump truck, so a skirt that hits just at the bottom of my knee cap standing moves a good few inches above the knee when I sit and it has to accommodate the new circumference, and tea length is not flattering on me. So any skirt I might wear has the chance to give a show if I’m not being careful.

      I love that this isn’t something you ever have to consciously think about, but some of us do.

    22. Private wombat*

      As someone who only occasionally wears fitted blouses instead of a baggy sweater, I’m having trouble understanding the OP’s issue in the letter where her colleagues complained about her appearance post-mastectomy. In my head it would be just like sitting in public, and if I couldn’t do that with enough modesty then I wouldn’t be wearing the outfit to work.
      Or is there a sort of outfit where one wouldn’t look too confronting to a passer-by but makes people more and more uncomfortable over time as one sits at one’s desk?

    23. Chaordic One*

      I never really thought about this very much, but I’ve run into situations where people have taped things in front of their desks to create a sort of paper modesty panel. Sometimes it might be a large poster. (We’re talking like 36″ x 60″.) Another person used a map. Other people have used rolls or gift wrap.

    24. Corrvin (they/them)*

      Because if I’m sitting in a chair without a desk, I can cross my legs in any way I want, including at the knees (so, one knee over the other). If there’s a desk in the way, there’s not room for my legs to cross that way.

      It’s academic for me, because I don’t wear skirts, but for people who do, certain body shapes (tall people and people with thick thighs, among others) mean you can’t cross your legs under a desk.

  3. Magenta Sky*

    For #2, someone in a position like that should really consider looking into evening adult classes at a local community college (or even high school), which often have classes for *exactly* that kind of training. Rather than online courses with no tutor, that may or may not be worth darn, rather than a day (or two) long course so packed full of info nobody can absorb at one time, it’s an hour or two one night a week for several weeks, with an instructor used to working with exactly that kind of student, surrounded by other students in the same place (which should cut down the embarrassment a lot).

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I think the best option would be that the employer finds a suitable course that she can do during work hours. Evening courses would happen during her free time and possibly also cover different things than what she needs for her job. You can’t just decide on your own to use work time for this kind of training, so she should talk about it with her boss. But if an employee is completely overwhelmed and doesn’t know how to do their job, the situation can be impossible to save. This kind of situation would be a legal reason for firing even in places where there are laws about these things.

      1. Chria*

        That would certainly be a kindness on the part of the employer. However I think it’s also valid for an employer to say that basic computer knowledge is a necessary prerequisite for the job.

        1. chewingle*

          I would be surprised to learn that the job description when Jane applied didn’t list “knowledge in Microsoft Office Suite” as a prerequisite. In which case, Jane may have assumed she knew enough to do the job/learn on the job and then interviewed particularly well. Which makes it even more important for OP to say something. I’d want to know if an employee I hired for certain skills didn’t have the skills they claimed.

          1. Peon*

            I just checked a few of our job postings and most don’t mention MS Office at all – at this point, a certain familiarity with computer OSs and MS Office is assumed. Which I think is fair, this isn’t the 80s.

            When MS Office IS mentioned, it’s in the context of being able to do fancy stuff with Excel, or mail merges with Word, not using the Save icon.

            1. I'm Here. Isn't That Enough?*

              That’s surprising, the ones I see when I was looking did mention them, but I agree it should be assumed for all but the most basic of entry-level roles that you have some idea of what to do with a computer and the very basics of office applications.

              1. Just Another Cog*

                One would assume an applicant would have the very basic skills necessary for a job, yes. I once had to manage an employee who was hired as a Typist – that was the job title – who couldn’t type! The hiring committee hired them without either asking what their typing speed was or giving them a typing test. After discovering this on their first day, I came up with a plan to teach them to type on company time. This person pushed back hard on this. They signed into the tutorials a few times, but then just stopped. They were very defensive when asked about their progress in the lessons. It took a PIP, but we finally just had to fire them for their production. Years later, I wonder if they had a learning disability that they didn’t want to ask us to accommodate.

                1. Cabbagepants*

                  It’s hard for me to come up with a charitable explanation for why someone who doesn’t know how to type would apply to and accept a “typist” job without revealing that they didn’t know how to type AND refuse to learn to type. Learning disabilities don’t cause people to be this deceptive and unwilling to learn.

                2. Just Another Cog*

                  @ Cabbagepants – Spot on! This person was an acquaintance of one of the hiring committee members, who knew they had a crappy job and “rescued” them by recommending them for my opening. The typist knew how to hunt and peck, but not very fast. Maybe they thought that was good enough since no one asked typing speed in the interview. They also had personality issues that rubbed people the wrong way, so there was that.

            2. ferrina*

              My company includes the expectation of MS Office as an afterthought in the job posting. We never test on it, because as Peon said, at this point pretty much everyone can use it and we just need basic skills.

              That said, we did have one hire that did not know how to use PowerPoint. He included it on his resume, and we never questioned it. Once he started, he kept making basic mistakes (like editing data labels instead of editing data) and wasting coworkers time by getting them to help him. It’s one thing to have a basic understanding and Google your way to greater knowledge, but this guy expected others to train him on EVERYTHING. I was his manager and basically had to put him on a PIP in Week 2 so we could get him up to the basic pre-requisites for the job.
              He didn’t work out- he took umbrage that I didn’t take 10+ hours to personally train him on skills he claimed to have prior to starting the job and complained to my boss. My boss had no time for it, and immediately showed him the door.

              1. Hannah Lee*

                We do the same thing for our job postings, and official job descriptions. We don’t test for it, but having included gives us an easy thing to point to if someone is struggling with the basics of Word or Excel or Office or Powerpoint, to let them know it’s not optional and that it’s something they need to learn if they don’t know it.
                Fortunately, there are tutorials, online learning videos, etc, that someone can work on during work hours if needed. So most people who need to learn it or brush up on it can do that easily.

                That is if they are not like that one person we had a while back who was really resistant to using anything but whatever program she already knew (WordPerfect? or some hokey word processor?) and would grumble about it, anytime she had to create or edit or even view a document. Then it became not so much a skills issue as an insubordination, inflexibility issue.

      2. I'm Here. Isn't That Enough*

        This is something I feel the company shouldn’t have to provide time to do. Jane should be investing in herself to learn these skills. This is basic investment in oneself. Does high school not provide training anymore in the standard computer classes? Mine did. it was antiquated (DOS when windows 3.0 was out) but it covered the basics to allow me to be intuitive to other versions of the software.

        1. cardigarden*

          Nope, schools assume kids know this stuff already. I work at a university and employ students, and I’ve had to implement a Computers 101 segment to onboarding because no one understands even basic things like how directories/folder structures work.

          1. Peon*

            Ugh. Good to know, I’ll add it to the list of stuff to teach my 10 year old. IMO typing skills are a lot more important than cursive.

            At this point, he can navigate to Google, find my email, get the most recent one and use the link in it to log in to the meeting I sent him; I only had to show him twice, so I told him he’s doing a lot better than some grownups I know lol.

        2. Bast*

          It’s also possible that Jane was an older employee to where computers were NOT taught in school because they just weren’t a thing. My mother complained repeatedly when, as a nurse, she had to start charting in a computer program rather than via hand written notes, and this was roughly 15 years ago. There were entire industries that really resisted the switch to computers as well, so it isn’t unthinkable that someone born in the 40s, 50s, or 60s, could have spent an entire career NOT using a computer, switching jobs, and then being suddenly forced to learn suddenly.

          I do agree one should not deliberately misinterpret their abilities and should try to spend a little effort into learning what your industry is using now.

        3. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Can speak to that, in a small bubble anyways:

          My high schooler uses a (school district provided for him) Chromebook as does every student between 6-12th grades where I live. MS Office is not what is used; its the Google version of all the things. How close are they? Unsure. There are definitely more things available in the MS Office version; I’m just not sure if using only the Google app version of Docs or Sheets would make you basically worthless in actual MS Word or Excel versions or not.

          1. JustaTech*

            I just popped over to Docs and Sheets and the biggest difference is that there isn’t a save icon (because everything is automatically saved to the Cloud).
            For everyday use Docs and Sheets are a good starting point for Word and Excel – there is a lot more advanced stuff, especially in Excel, but you’d be in a good place to learn stuff.

            Not everyone is comfortable with keyboard shortcuts (ctrl+C, ctrl+X, ctrl+V, ctrl+Z). My FIL ran a successful company for years without ever figuring out how to copy and paste (by any method), and it took more than a decade to teach my MIL that tabs in a web browser are useful.
            I’ve found I picked up a bunch more shortcuts from watching my husband who is in tech and prefers to use the keyboard over the mouse for ergonomic reasons.

            But yes to what folks said upthread that if you’re used to using the cloud you’ll need to be specifically taught how to use file directories.

    2. Chria*

      The public library often has tech assistance classes or drop-in hours as well. Most often they’re marketed for seniors, but there’s no reason anyone else can’t attend.

    3. Dek*

      The local public library may also have some classes for adult computer literacy. I know ours does. (iirc, at least one person was unfamiliar enough with computers to put the mouse on the screen when told to click on an icon, so our librarians who run it are really able to start with the very basics if a person in the class hasn’t had any experience)

      1. JustaTech*

        Many, many years ago (back in the Windows 3.1 era) my grandmother was visiting and my little brother was showing off some new computer game. My grandmother was a very proficient typist, but was new to computers.
        So they’re playing along and she’s controlling her character with the arrow keys when something pops up on the screen and my brother says “use the mouse, use the mouse!” and she starts shouting “where’s the mouse, where’s the mouse!?” thinking that we had rodents (again).

        Not long after she got her own computer and was an active emailer the rest of her life.

    4. Dogmama*

      I was asked to teach a lovely, sweet middle-aged church secretary a few design tips in Publisher, in which she’d been making the church bulletin. I toughed it out for 2 sessions during which I found out that she had no idea where the files she saved were stored and could only retrieve them by opening recently saved documents in Publisher (older than that and the file was lost forever). She had only one bulletin file which she saved over every week – she couldn’t go back and retrieve graphics or articles – she retyped Christmas and Easter repeated items afresh each year. And of course she had no idea about shortcuts, so even simple cut and paste was an ordeal for her.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, Claire probably talked to her friend and said “oh hey can you look out for OP who has just started as an intern, I met with her yesterday” and of course the friend would have said “who?”. If that’s the case, Claire may have hesitated about recommending OP (but then still did it) – I think in Claire’s position I would have asked OP about the dates discrepancy to see how they responded before sending the resume on.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        .. oh! I missed that there was an update (and don’t recall reading the original letter the first time) — From the update I see Claire decided not to make the recommendation.

    2. Rondeaux*

      We don’t know that it was because of the internship though – there are lots of reasons she may not have heard back (Claire was swamped and lost track, she did send but whoever received it wasn’t interested, there may not have even been an open role, there was but it closed, they hired the CEO’s daughter, etc.)

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah, I assumed that it was one of the many behind the scenes things that happens rather than Claire caught onto it. It’s possible Claire caught the lie, but I agree with Alison that it’s unlikely Claire would exactly remember it and hold it against OP as a fatal error. I think it’s much more likely that Claire was busy and couldn’t follow up/the job evaporated or went to another candidate/Claire made a mention to someone then moved on with her life/Claire was unimpressed with OP for other reasons/Claire took a sudden interest in moose preservation and moved to the far north.

        These things happen all the time (except maybe the moose preservation). It’s not a resounding repudiation of OP, though OP is right to work on that mistake of exaggerating her work.

  4. Jade*

    I always brought good creamer to a former job. The large size. My immediate coworkers could use it. One coworker never brought any items, literally drank the creamer over two days and had a fit when I started taping up the lid. Five years later Creamer Gate was still talked about.

    1. Oolie*

      My last job had a “coffee club.” Anyone who wanted to join paid a set monthly amount, and each month someone was assigned to pick up coffee, creamer, sweetener, and other supplies. This wouldn’t fix the problem of CW using more than her share, but at least she’d have to contribute something.

    2. Bast*

      At Old Job you had to bring your own coffee/milk/creamer, etc. There was always someone who took the milk and creamers as “community” items despite the common knowledge that we had to supply our own coffee making stuff (15 people or less at company, so everyone clearly knew, and it was a regular gripe). And not just a little bit. You’d bring your own milk, use a little, go down a day or two later to find it half gone. The same thing would happen if you brought a 2 liter of Coke, salad dressing, etc, even if CLEARLY marked with person’s name. I took to printing multiple labels on my label printer and sticking them all over the bottles, and around the cap so it would be obvious if the seal was broken.

    3. Bear Expert*

      My last office (and my current one when I visit, come to think of it) provide milk in the kitchen/snack area fridge.

      I think this is absolutely the way to go and feel bad that its impossible for places like government offices that would have to answer to some angry jerk about why the taxpayers are paying for coffee supplies, when the reasonable answer is “Because it supports office work and communication instead of people having to leave the building for coffee or spend work time on organizing/managing/talking about/recovering from/investigation milk and coffee supply chain issues.” Its infrastructure support like toilet tissue and pens. If you want your special pens or your favorite creamer, bring them and if someone steals them its theft because we all know what the company provided supplies look like, no “I thought it was left for everyone to use” whining.

      I love not having to care about my excessive milk consumption (I had a morning oatmeal in the office phase for a while, which definitely used more milk than topping off a cup of coffee) or the periods where I don’t use the supplies at all (I never drink coffee, and my last in office pattern was making tea at home for the most part) All of the systems outside of “the company handles it” for coffee and supplies have failure states that suck, a lot like the “who cleans out the kitchen fridge” issues.

      I don’t want me or my team having to spend work time on the creamer wars any more than I want to manage that Jack evidently has never learned to wipe down a counter when its his turn. I hired Jack as a software developer, teaching him and monitoring his counter cleaning seems like a stupid waste of his salary and mine as his manager. (But if its not really his job when his name comes up in the rotation, then whose job is it?)

    4. JustaTech*

      One place I worked that had a very informal coffee club eventually relegated one coworker to only being allowed to bring the sugar, because if he brought the coffee it was the worst coffee you can buy (like, I don’t know where he found anything that sub-par).
      He also wasn’t allowed to make the coffee because his coffee was so bad you would think your milk had gone off.

      When asked to bring sugar he decided we needed brown sugar for “minerals” and put it in a plastic jar labeled “pork floss”.
      He was A Lot.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      You can buy an add on modesty panel for existing desks for something like, $100 which wouldn’t be in the way, like plants in the middle of the floor would be. Large scale artificial plants are going to be close, or exceeding that in costs. Plus the OPs company already had modesty panel desks! Would her manager buy the plants or would OP (to go with a new wardrobe). If there’s already some there, it could be a very short term bandaid solution though; in fact if they’re annoyingly in the way it might make a point.

      1. Allonge*

        OP says ‘the cable tidies stop boards from being attached’ so this does not seem to be an option. Which of course is pretty bad design then for the desks, modesty panels are not an extremely special equipment.

        1. Antilles*

          It’s absolutely an option. You measure the modesty board and take 5 minutes with a power drill to cut an appropriately sized hole for the cable tidies to run through. Easy enough that pretty much anybody could do it.

          The actual answer is that management doesn’t think this is an issue and are pushing “but what about cables???” as a way to justify doing nothing.

        2. Observer*

          OP says ‘the cable tidies stop boards from being attached’ so this does not seem to be an option.

          And that was a clue to many of us that something was wring with those desks. Because it’s just unheard of (and this was true when the original was posted) that you can’t have decent modesty panels with cable tidies.

          Based on the comment the OP posted up above, it’s obvious that in fact this was the case – these were not regular desks and had to be replaced because senior management couldn’t use them.

    2. E*

      i have partly clear doors to bedrooms in my rental and solves the issue with large scarfs. tape it to the rear of the desk so it drops to the floor and wires can be worked around since it’s not a fixed unmoveable board.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, I thought of something like a piece of fabric as a provisional solution. But from the comments. the problem has been solved, anyway!

    3. chewingle*

      I can see this getting hilariously out of hand, ending with everyone working in an artificial jungle. Do it.

    4. Dinwar*

      Another option would be a banner of some sort. In Bama you get the football rivalry, and a lot of people (including women) would definitely hang their team’s flag; they already do, on the walls of cubicles. There’s also seasonal ones, or coats of arms. My sons’ school has houses, each with their own flag, and they sell merchandise to support the school. Lots of options here. And they all end the same way–a totally chaotic explosion of colors!

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Honestly, I’d be in there with a strip of fabric and a staple gun. If they don’t want my DIY they can get me a d*mned panel.

      1. Angstrom*

        I’d go with cardboard and tape, or maybe come in with a screwdriver and some angle brackets. We have the technology…

  5. LadyAmalthea*

    I’ve been put in charge of training several people who were completely lacking in a skill set that made training them effectively impossible (computer illiteracy, total inability to type, functional illiteracy in English, complete lack of spacial skills). As a trainer, you are set up for failure in these cases. I hope the coworker took the computer classes, but from how she reacted to the writer, I would be surprised if she did.

    1. Cabbagepants*

      If Jane can’t figure out the basics of MS Office then frankly I doubt she could manage an online course, either.

      1. lilsheba*

        And there is NO excuse for this! Computers have been around for decades, and they are a part of every day life especially at work. How can you NOT learn them after years of them being around? The one thing I have trouble with is Excel because it does way more than I can even know, but I have known basic commands for decades.

        1. Bast*

          I am not sure what field Jane is/was in, but it’s entirely possible she DIDN’T need to learn how to use a computer beforehand. Some companies, and particular fields, were very slow to transition. If Jane was perhaps an older employee in one of those industries/companies, handwritten everything may still have been the norm. I have met several (older, nearing retirement age) attorneys who refuse to do computer anything, refuse to use email and insist on phone calls and letters only (despite the fact that even the courts in this area require efiling), and only have old fashioned physical files and no case management software. They use a TYPEWRITER rather than MS Word. They refuse to learn any of the “new stuff” and there is absolutely no changing their minds, and because it’s their firm, no one can tell them anything different.

          The medical field is another one that comes to mind — my mother was so upset when they started to force computer charting instead of handwritten — and this was about 15-ish years ago, when many other industries had already made it mainstream to use computers. There are still offices where handwritten notes are the norm, though they are becoming increasingly rare.

          All in all, while I don’t necessarily find it hard to believe that Jane knew nothing, if I were Jane I’d be scrambling to improve my skill set on my own.

        2. Gumby*

          It’s possible Jane comes from a non-office job where computer use at work is less common. And while I am sure that computers are used in most industries that doesn’t mean each individual person there uses one. Someone on an assembly line won’t use the computer as part of her job as much as someone in the office of the manufacturing plant. Maybe Jane worked previously as a plumber or did woodworking or food prep or taught yoga or led nature hikes or was a seamstress or worked on a ranch or was a professional dancer. (I know next to nothing about those fields but I assume that at least some workers in them don’t need to use a computer often / at all.)

          Though I did always side-eye the co-worker I had in a software quality assurance job who didn’t know keyboard shortcuts for copy / cut / paste among other things. Her overall computer literacy wasn’t abysmal but there were some definite holes there that seemed odd given her career. And she had worked in QA for several internet companies.

      2. JustaTech*

        Years ago I took an online food handler safety course (as part of volunteering at a food bank/ soup kitchen). I go to the webpage and start the training and it just goes on and on with what was to me super, super basic stuff about using the mouse.
        I was about to get really annoyed when I remembered that most of the people taking this were food service workers who might not have a lot of computer proficiency (at least with a desktop rather than a phone/tablet) or a lot of English proficiency. So I told myself to sit down and acknowledge my privilege and just take the dang course.

  6. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 A simple solution is to wear trousers. I wouldn’t buy new desks or use office budget to modify them when that solves the problem.
    If there is a ridiculous gender-specific dress code, then bin it. Also allow chinos or jeans etc in case employees don’t have trouser suits.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Very often women can’t wear trousers easily, cheaply or comfortably. It’s not that the OP isn’t allowed trousers. It’s that they’d rather not replace their wardrobe because of thoughtless desk arrangements. A few pairs of trousers, and alterations to make them fit, can be a costly price. Far more than a modesty panel.

        1. Peon*

          Pants are more difficult to fit, just from a sewing standpoint, because you have to deal with crotch length and depth, and the legs. If you can’t sew and can’t afford to have them tailored, it can be much more difficult to find an adequately fitting pair of pants then an adequately fitting skirt.

          (I’d argue finding either that fits WELL off the shelf is impossible, people are just so used to ready to wear clothing not fitting well that they no longer understand what it’s supposed to look like, and in some cases like my husband, prefer it to be ill fitting)

        2. Hlao-roo*

          Ellis Bell said “Very often women can’t wear trousers easily, cheaply or comfortably,” which is very different from “can’t wear trousers at all.”

          Maybe “often” or “sometimes” is more accurate than “very often,” but there are plenty of examples in this thread alone of women who can’t wear pants comfortably, or cheaply, or easily:

          I am someone who isn’t very comfortable in pants. I live in a very cold climate and I still wear dresses most days because they feel less constricting around my waist and pelvis.

          Absolutely hate the things [trousers], only wear them when necessary, which is usually for hiking and involves belting them.

          My body is shaped in such a way that it’s incredibly difficult to find professional pants that fit both by waist and my thighs correctly without tailoring, and even when they’re tailored correctly I find them uncomfortable.

          Pants are so uncomfortable! They ride up, dig into my waist, are problematic in length

          It’s tough to find pants that fit properly. Then there is the added expense of tailoring

        3. Flor*

          You’re skipping over the “easily, cheaply or comfortably” part of Ellis Bell’s comment. They didn’t say that women can’t wear pants full stop, but that (in the context of the office), they can’t do so “easily, cheaply or comfortably”. Given the number of comments below from women for whom finding work trousers that fit is an exercise in frustration, and the fact the OP would have had to go out and spend money on new clothes to swap from skirts to trousers, I think it’s fair to say that this happens often, if not “very often”.

        4. Be Gneiss*

          Maybe read some of the comments in this particular thread of comments, where actual women are explaining, in detail, why finding office-appropriate pants is difficult, expensive, and uncomfortable when they can just *wear skirts*. So I guess if you mean “can’t” as physically impossible, then sure, maybe “VERY OFTEN can’t” is an exaggeration. But since many of these commenters mean “very often it is uncomfortable, expensive, and unnecessarily burdensome because I can just *wear work-appropriate skirts*” then I think it’s fair to say that some women very often can’t wear pants.

        5. Beveled Edge*

          I recently gained some “congrats you’re over 40” weight and have struggled to find pants that fit my new shape. If I wasn’t working a job that doesn’t care a fig what I wear, I’d probably resort to stretchy skirts, even though I loathe them. Women comes in such a wide variety of shapes and the clothing industry is so hellbent on making us wear skin-tight pants that yeah, just finding wearable pants has become a big challenge.

    2. IT Manager in Toronto*

      I am someone who isn’t very comfortable in pants. I live in a very cold climate and I still wear dresses most days because they feel less constricting around my waist and pelvis.

      That being said, it would never occur to me in a million years to notice whether desks have modesty panels. And certainly not to complain about it. I would adapt to the environment if it bothered me and wear longer skirts, but I am able to do so without burden. If it bothered my female colleagues, I would support asking for change.

    3. Engineer*

      “You should take on the burden of modifying your entire wardrobe because your work is so shortsighted and cheap they won’t fix the desks. And I too am so shortsighted and cheap I would do the same at my office, placing an undue burden on the women there.”

      Some women want to wear skirts. Knee length is more than a professional lengtg, but it still rides up when we sit down. Why should women, once again, take on the burden of changing everything about ourselves to exist? How does your Vulcan logic explain that?

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        Many places have a compulsory dress code of business suits. This would just be optional and far less of a burden.

        Maybe I don’t see why trousers are such a terrible imposition because I’ve always hated dresses & skirts and haven’t worn them more than twice in the last 45 years. Skirts just aren’t part of what makes me feel like a woman

        1. bamcheeks*

          I totally get this, but like, you can’t overcorrect and assume that all women are only wearing skirts under pressure just because you prefer them! It’s like the conversation about heels yesterday, or the regular conversations about make-up, bras, low-denier tights/pantyhose, and everything else female-coded. Yes, there is real and objectionable pressure on women to dress in particular ways as part of “professional” presentation, and many women chafe at those demands. But to generalise that and assume that all women therefore hate skirts, dresses, bras, make-up, heels, etc and are only wearing them because they’ve been forced just means that *every* woman feels like her clothes are being scrutinised and judged, and that’s not a way forward either.

          1. amoeba*

            Hah, yes, the (wired) bra one is one of my favourite hang-ups. My breasts absolutely need a well-fitting, wired, full-support bra. If they didn’t exist, I’d basically be in pain all day, not even talking about sports.
            Great if you don’t need one and not wearing it is liberating! Go, you! But please don’t make assumptions that all of us who do are just bad feminists or brain-washed by patriarchy or whatever.

        2. Gracie*

          I’ve got a dress size difference of close to two sizes between my waist and my hips/thighs – my options are leggings (or joggers/sweatpants with a very adjustable waistband, for lazing around the house), skirts/dresses, or proper trousers that are simultaneously far too tight on my thighs and gaping or falling down around my waist

          Absolutely hate the things, only wear them when necessary, which is usually for hiking and involves belting them. Hiking also doesn’t involve sitting down for eight hours being so uncomfortable I want to crawl out of my skin, especially when I bloat after I eat and have a belt digging into my stomach. I don’t own jeans, I don’t own business trousers, and no exaggeration, I would be looking for a new job if they tried to make trousers mandatory

        3. Magpie*

          My body is shaped in such a way that it’s incredibly difficult to find professional pants that fit both by waist and my thighs correctly without tailoring, and even when they’re tailored correctly I find them uncomfortable. As such, I wear skirts and dresses most days. It would be a huge imposition on me if I was suddenly required to buy a bunch of pants, have them tailored to fit, and then have to wear them every day when I have a more comfortable option readily available that’s just as professional.

          1. Slartibartfast*

            The entire female pants market (at least in the US) is based off a single woman’s figure and the same proportions are sized up or down. My butt is proportionally bigger than her butt. I’ve been everything from a size 4 to a size 16 and everything has *always* been too small in the butt, resulting ina gaping waistband in the back and serious digging in to the belly. Anything remotely low rise is guaranteed buttcrack exposure. I have a very difficult time finding work pants that fit, and I wear scrubs at work. If I had to wear office clothes, loose skirts would probably be my only option.

            1. Nobby Nobbs*

              This whole conversation is a reminder to be grateful that I don’t work in an office and can work in a nice pair of Dickies (not that I don’t need a very specific cut that the local stores rarely stock, but still) and avoid the trial that is Shopping For Slacks. Or trying to wear the slacks that I could swear fit in the dressing room, has my butt grown two sizes in a week without affecting the fit of any of my other clothes, what gives?!

            2. bamcheeks*

              I LOVE Whistles in the UK, and constantly have ebay alerts out for their trousers (they’re typically £100-200 to buy new, depending on whether they’re jeans or more dressy trousers, but I’ve got smart work trousers and jeans for under £20 on ebay.) I looked up their sizing once and realised they’ve got a 7:10 waist-hip ratio where most manufacturers are more like 8:10, and suddenly my love for them made so much sense!

        4. DJ Abbott*

          I wear skirts almost all the time. Pants are so uncomfortable! They ride up, dig into my waist, are problematic in length – I’m very particular about that-and if I gain or lose a couple of pounds, it changes a whole fit and makes them unwearable.
          Skirts on the other hand are much more comfortable and flexible with weight gains and losses. They can just ride half an inch higher or lower to accommodate weight changes.
          I would be furious at the expectation of changing my whole wardrobe and comfort level because somebody didn’t know enough to buy good desks! I’d probably get another job first.

          1. Gracie*

            Gosh, yes, the length problem with trousers is the most frustrating thing! I’m 5’9/175cm, not exceptionally tall for a woman, but I have a weirdly short torso. At the hip, my legs are almost the same length at someone who’s more like 6’0. When I did wear trousers more often, and when I still wear hiking trousers now, I just accept that they end on or above my anklebone even when I buy ones with a long length as opposed to regular length – at least with walking boots, it’s not too much of a problem. With business wear? Awful.

            1. WellRed*

              I am 5’5” and have trouble with length. Manufacturers seems to think a 31 inch inseam is long. Yeah, no.

              1. La Triviata*

                Someone once commented that women’s clothing sizes were devised by 16 ferrets on crack. Seems accurate

                1. Rebecca*

                  The vanity sizing! I used to wear a size 4 or 6 about 20 years ago. I’m the same size now (25″ or 26″ inseam, depending on the cut), and there are brands where a size 0 falls off of me. Same with shirts. I used to be a S, and now XS shirts sometimes hang or fall off of me.

                  I have a “normal” body type and am 5’5″ (which is, quite literally, the US average). And I can’t find clothes. The only brands/styles that actually fit are geared towards women half my age, and it sucks.

              2. JustaTech*

                Or even knowing what your inseam is!
                The other day I was asking my husband about inseam lengths and he asked me what mine is.
                “I have no idea.”
                “Well, what do your pants say?”
                “That’s not an inseam.”
                “Nope, and it’s not a waist measurement either. And none of my size 8s are the same in either of those measurements.”

              3. Pita Chips*

                I’m 5’2″ and a bit. More pants come in “short” than they did 30 years ago, but still not enough for me to make shopping easier. I can’t wear “petite” pants because almost no designer believes a short woman can have hips at all, never mind hips my plus size.

                The struggle is real.

            2. Nobby Nobbs*

              With a skirt, you’ve also got more flexibility in length, or at least plausible deniability to walk around like of course it’s supposed to end at that spot.

        5. Ellis Bell*

          I really like trousers when they fit! They don’t fit. I am an average UK dress size, I am the average height too, and trousers still don’t fit me, like they don’t fit a lot of women. If it fits my waist, it doesn’t fit my hips. If I find the unicorn that has my exact waist-hip ratio, then they are too tight on the thigh. If I find the very rare waist-hip-thigh unicorn, then they at the very least need hemming because they will be too long; apparently I am shorter than the average trouser lover. Retailers are selling a lot of stretch-fabric pants right now, because they know women have a lot of variables in shape, but even they make me look like vacuum packed sausages – and they still bag out on the waist by about four inches. It’s not about feeling like a woman – it’s about going shopping and coming home with something that fits you.

          1. londonedit*

            Yep. If I could find a decent, flattering, good quality pair of trousers that actually fit and looked stylish on me, I’d absolutely buy them. I’d love a pair of wide-leg trousers, in fact, but I’ve tried on probably 90% of the high-street ones available and none of them fit. They’re all tight on my thighs so they end up looking completely wrong, or if I buy ones that are wide-leg on the thigh, the waist is huge and there’s a load of fabric around the front that bunches up. I find it incredibly hard to find trousers that make me feel comfortable and stylish and non-frumpy (or that don’t feel like school trousers).

            Thankfully my industry is quite casual, and so I mainly wear midi dresses and trainers to the office, or maybe a maxi skirt with trainers. I find they fit my shape properly, they’re flattering, and they can be dressed up or down depending on what my working day will involve. A patterned jersey midi dress is comfortable and looks good on me, so I much prefer that to attempting to find a pair of trousers.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              Wide leg trousers used to fit me, (they skim over the thighs just like a skirt) but this was before waistbands got dropped down to bum cheek levels. Then, when high waisted came back I was thrilled thinking they would once again fit, but they still didn’t fit like before because now it’s a higher than high rib-height waist, rather than just higher than your bum crack. Ah well, even in ye olde days, I always had to hem them, and pants fabric is often thin and cold, so I’ll just stick to my wooly tights and a warm wool pinafore over a jumper.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                That’s one of the things I love about skirts. Warm tights and a warm skirt or dress are much warmer than jeans or pants! And I also look better in skirts.

              2. Feckless Rando*

                Where are these rib height pants? I too am in constant search of a good high rise pant and I have yet to find anything, no matter how sky high they insist the wait is, that comes even up to my belly button without immediate camel toe.

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            Or (for me) if they are that rare unicorn pant that fits, they are over $100. I am pretty sure I have pants that are old enough to drink and vote just because I desperately keep them going once I find one that works. I dislike dresses intensely, but they really are the only thing I can cope with sometimes.

          3. DJ Abbott*

            My current unicorn is two more pairs of jeans that fit comfortably.
            I made do with one for several years because they were not selling jeans that come up to the waist and down to the shoes. They don’t fit as well as I’d like, but are ok.
            I found the perfect pair at Old Navy- along with several that don’t fit. Turns out the good pair is an earlier model which they changed to one that rides up in the worst places… sigh.
            Most of the ones I tried on were so tight on my legs, I couldn’t pull them up. And I’m thin and small. Who are they making these for?

        6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          I prefer skirt suits due to my body type. It’s tough to find pants that fit properly. Then there is the added expense of tailoring because by the time I get them to fit higher up, my feet have disappearer.

          Also with pants you have to worry about heel height, so you have to make sure you have multiple pairs of shoes to match your pant length. With skirts, that doesn’t matter so much.

        7. ThatGirl*

          Because people like different things, feel comfortable in different things, etc. I don’t really wear skirts either, in fact I prefer jeans to other kinds of pants, but there are people out there who hate jeans! The beauty of this world is that we don’t all have the same wants, needs, opinions and preferences.

        8. Texan in exile on her phone*

          “Skirts just aren’t part of what makes me feel like a woman”


          What I wear does not make me feel like a woman ever.

          What makes me feel like a woman is be the pay gap, the mansplaining, the loss of abortion rights, the cramps, the hot flashes, and the lack of research about women’s medical conditions. And the fact that there are never enough ladies’ rooms.

        9. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          I hate them too. Please accept that there are people who hate trousers just as much as we hate skirts/dresses, and that just because their preferred attire aligns with conventional gender presentation doesn’t make it any less of a preference.

          1. Dinwar*

            There’s support within the Feminist community for this idea. Check out Lipstick Feminism, which embraces traditional ideas of feminine beauty (makeup, skirts, that sort of thing) as a mean of empowerment. The essays I’ve read are very much of the tone “I can be anything I want, so I choose to look the way I think makes me look best because that’s what makes me feel good.” To be required to defy social convention is just as effective at removing agency from the individual as to be required to obey it–in both cases it’s someone outside the individual that is making the choice for the individual.

            1. londonedit*

              Well, exactly. It’s frankly quite insulting to be told that wearing the things I like, whether it’s clothes or make-up or whatever, means I’m pandering to the patriarchy and I’ve been brainwashed into thinking it’s what I want. No. Equality for women means we can wear or do whatever we like, just the same as men can. I really dislike this ‘Ugh women who like fashion and wear make-up and have their hair cut, I don’t do any of those things, I don’t care what I wear and I don’t own a hair dryer and I wouldn’t wear make-up if you paid me because I am a Real Feminist’ stuff. I am deserving of respect whether I choose to wear a dress or a suit and tie or running kit or whatever else I happen to enjoy wearing.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Equality for women hasn’t resulted in pants that actually physically fit me, either, and I’m not going to be uncomfortable for the rest of my life just to prove a point. Even “curvy” jeans just lower the waistline to avoid the waist-to-hip ratio issue, which means they also don’t cover your a** when you sit down.

                There are very, very, few things I can’t do just as well in a skirt as in pants (changing the oil in my car is the big one that comes to mind. I mean, I probably could do it in a skirt but it’s faster in pants). I’m not planning to climb Everest or anything.

              2. Dinwar*

                For my part, I’ve always been mildly jealous of the options women have. I prefer robes and tunics/hose to pants and polo shirts myself (I can’t even wear long-sleeved shirts, which makes winter fun), and would love to live in a world where I could wear those routinely, but just try to convince most men that it’s not effeminate. I’d rather live in a world where people can dress however they want, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the physical function of the office (eg, no cloaks in the lab). From a philosophical viewpoint liberty means variety, and I hold an environment where I see multiple people dressing in ways I personally dislike as an indication that things are going as they should; it means people are free to do what they want, not forced to do as they’re told.

                1. JustaTech*

                  I wish Utilikilts had broader acceptance beyond the tech/alternative community, because I think everyone should have the option of a good swirl.

              3. JustaTech*

                I once read an online discussion about “wearing makeup for boys” and the retort was “I don’t own 5 different red Mac lipsticks for a guy who can’t tell the difference between red and pink.”

        10. Observer*

          Maybe I don’t see why trousers are such a terrible imposition because I’ve always hated dresses & skirts and haven’t worn them more than twice in the last 45 years.

          Ah. So you don’t like skirts, and the means that women simply should not have the option, even though all it takes to make it realistic is to get *standard* office furniture. Got it.

          Skirts just aren’t part of what makes me feel like a woman

          That’s just an incredibly offensive thing to say. People wear skirts for all sorts of reasons. This is not about people wanting a workplace to make them “feel like women”.

          1. Heather*

            can we please stop using “this is offensive” to mean “I disagree with this”? I don’t agree with the original comment but there’s nothing offensive there.

            1. Dinwar*

              I disagree. Saying “I feel this way, therefore others should” has been a means for oppressing huge swaths of people for a long, long time. It’s also literally belittling the opinions of others, an inherently offensive form of discussion. Further, presuming why people dress the way they do is in reality telling them that they don’t get to have an opinion–another inherently offensive form of discussion.

              Rationally speaking this does not necessarily make the argument wrong. Offensive things can be true. But that what’s been said can be taken as offensive is hardly unreasonable.

            2. Observer*

              can we please stop using “this is offensive” to mean “I disagree with this”?

              That’s a reasonable request. But that is not what I am saying. It’s not that I “disagree”. It’s that the poster is making an offensive claim. There is a difference.

              You can disagree with me that it’s offensive, but I don’t think that you have the standing to declare that it’s not offensive.

        11. Umami*

          Getting a proper, comfortable fit in trousers is MUCH tougher than a proper, comfortable fit in a skirt or dress. It’s not about feeling like a woman, I don’t really know what that comment is meant to convey.

        12. WellRed*

          I think you kind of just pointed out the flaw in your logic, Vulcan. YOU HaTE dresses and skirts so you wear pants. Think about that for a minute. Why is your choice the standard bearer for other women who may hate pants?

        13. Dek*


          I loooooathe wearing dresses and skirts.

          Contrawise, I know some people who ONLY wear them. I understand that in the same way that I feel deeply uncomfortable in a skirt, other people may feel the same aversion to wearing pants.

          It would be a terrible imposition on me if I was suddenly required to wear a skirt. The same goes the other way around.

          Also, nevermind the potential for religious discrimination here.

        14. birb*

          Maybe step outside of your personal experience and feelings about skirts and apparently also the people who need or want to wear them.

        15. Rainy*

          Please stop judging other people for how they choose to present and identify.

          It is okay to like wearing dresses and skirts, just like it’s okay to not like wearing dresses and skirts. I grew up with a mum who hated dresses/skirts and only wore them to church and performances, and shamed other women for liking a more femme presentation (much like you are doing in this thread) and as someone who likes to present more femme, it really messed up my body image and my ability to really own my presentation well into adulthood.

          You probably think that your opinion is harmless, but your obvious scorn and hostility are not.

        16. Quoth the Raven*

          I hate skirts and dresses because they trigger my gender dysphoria badly (even when I consciously acknowledge skirts and dresses ≠ woman) and I still would hate to have others told they can’t wear them for any reason, especially due to furniture, just as much as I’d hate to be told I can’t wear pants.

          My feelings about garments and my personal preference don’t mean LW isn’t being reasonable. I don’t particularly want to catch an eyeful of anyone’s crotch or police the way I sit in pants, either

        17. Bear Expert*

          I don’t ever feel like a woman, I’m non binary and other people assuming I’m a woman feels uncomfy. I wear dresses to work because my body is not well served by easily commercially available slacks. I work remotely in tech, which is a field notorious for a work wardrobe of graphic t-shirts and old company swag shirts. I wear dresses anyway because they -fit- and -are comfortable-.

          Pressure against my hips hurts. Dresses hang from my shoulders, mine have a fitted waist, so the physical structure of the garment is held to my body on shoulders and my rib cage, leaving my hips basically alone. I’m also very short waisted, have a 34″ inseam, and an extreme hourglass shape. This is not a body that commercial pants work well with.

          Possibly I could get custom made pants that balloon oddly around my hips and are high waisted so they aren’t resting on my hips? Are those high waisted palazzo pants back in trend again? Trying to find relatively neutral business wear “just wear pants” is not … a great solution for me?

          Or I can grab the next cotton knit dress out of my closet and show up to work, where people think I’m dressed mildly too formally, but otherwise ignorably, and importantly for me I can also ignore it.

          I’m glad that you have found clothing that works well for you. Skirts and dresses are an available choice, and preferable to a subset of the population.

        18. DisgruntledPelican*

          So you’d be okay with a problem that your office could easily fix being solved by them telling you to just wear skirts?

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      To me, it’s like employees demanding that the heating in winter be raised 10 degrees because they want to wear thin sleeveless tops and shorts.

      1. rr*

        uh, no. this person is wearing dress code compliant clothing that is appropriate. they just need office equipment that is also appropriate and comfortable enough for them to do their work at without being distracted. like a chair. try thinking of it that way.

        I personally had never heard of modesty panels, but I can absolutely see why they would get wanted.

        also, certain people (often women) get colder at certain temperatures. regardless of dress. I know I do, and shorts and sleeveless shirts are not in my wardrobe.

        1. Be Gneiss*

          I think it’s one of those things that you aren’t aware of – and so you’ve never needed to know the name for it – until you’re in a situation where you notice its absence, but they are on most desks. At least the kind that are not meant to be part of a cubicle, where it wouldn’t matter anyway.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        No it’s more like the boss insisting you wear skirts, because they do, even though it isn’t your preference.

      3. Observer*

        To me, it’s like employees demanding that the heating in winter be raised 10 degrees because they want to wear thin sleeveless tops and shorts.

        Good grief! Why are you digging in and getting more and more ridiculous?

        People are not asking for extreme measures in order to wear clothing that’s at the edge (or past the edge) of work appropriate attire!

        The sexism of your comparison is glaring. Women as simply asking to be allowed to wear clothing that fits them properly and with reasonable comfort, without major expense and trouble. And all the employer needs to do is provide *standard* office furniture.

        Why on earth would you claim that it’s just a matter of a bunch of spoiled women who don’t understand office norms?

      4. JustaTech*

        No, it’s much more like telling all the employees to bundle up in parkas and sweaters because the boss is too warm so why should we heat this building anyway?

        Are you trying to sound like Scrooge?

    5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I don’t ever wear trousers. Not suits, jeans, leggings, whichever.

      Why should I have to? I’d hoped this wouldn’t go down like the original post did of ‘cross your legs’, ‘hold your thighs together’ ‘buy longer clothing’ ‘just don’t wear skirts’ but…*sigh*

      1. birb*

        It’s so incredibly close to rape culture that it’s jarring. Well what were you wearing? Why didn’t you try holding your knees together?

    6. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      OK, I’ve learned something here!
      I’m coming from a field which was 95% men and the few women wore trousers too. I rarely saw a colleague or even high-up manager in a dress or skirt.

      I didn’t realise there are fields where women might not even have work trousers in their wardrobe.
      If that is the situation for the OP, then she & her colleagues can explain this and push back.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah there are totally fields where trousers might be a necessity. You would know that going in, and would just do the legwork (haha) of finding suitable pants. Needing pants to sit at a desk though? Pfffft.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        …. news at 11, not everyone is like you were before you retired? Shocker :P

    7. IvoryTowerDragon*

      The inexpensive solution I used when I got my “sit to stand” desk, which has no panel, was to buy one of those “table skirts” like you might use at a table at a conference. It clips to the edge of the desk, and I can sit comfortably, and even keep a couple of boxes tucked away under my desk.

    8. Dinwar*

      “Sorry, everyone, but Corporate purchased the wrong desks. Please purchase an entirely new wardrobe to accommodate my views on what you should be wearing. No, no, no one’s getting a raise–we expect you to pay for our mistakes out of your own pocket. Your modesty and comfort are YOUR concern, not ours.”

      Bonus points if you can say this while dumping half the creamer you don’t contribute to into your coffee.

      If I were in an office that said this, I’d start coming in in kilts and shepherd’s skirts. I have several, being a Medieval reenactor. I have a formal kilt (made under the tutelage of one of the top kilt-makers in Scotland), an everyday kilt, and perhaps best for this, my Pictish battle kilt, which is basically a miniskirt. If you don’t want to see my hairy legs and boxer shorts, either you understand the problem, or you ARE the problem.

      1. Random Bystander*

        I thought the point of kilts was that you don’t wear boxer shorts. At least so my brother tried to tell me before I put my hands over my ears and said “TMI, bro.”

        1. Flor*

          *Puts on dress history nerd hat*

          In the modern world, men should absolutely be wearing boxers or some other underpants under a kilt, because a wool kilt is not an easy-to-clean garment. Plus most modern men, including Scotsmen, aren’t used to sitting in a skirt, and the sporran doesn’t always weigh the apron down enough when they manspread.

          Historically, men might not have worn underpants under a kilt, but they did wear *undergarments*. Both men and women wore long linen shirts or shifts as their easily-washed base layer, and these fell to the mid-thigh for men and to the knee or calf for women. So a man wouldn’t wear underpants as we understand them (they didn’t exist), but he would be wearing a regularly-laundered layer between skin and kilt.

          tl;dr, you can only go without boxers with a kilt if your shirt reaches your thighs, otherwise you’re gross.

          1. Phryne*

            Thank you, very interesting. I find the history of clothing fascinating.
            Clothes in the past used to be very different. Very expensive (all handwork, from harvesting the fibres onwards) and generally more hardwearing and reused over generations.
            And the constant seems to be, over ages and cultures, that before cheap cotton and washing machines, upper clothes don’t touch your skin. Shifts, shirts, bloomers, shawls, hose etc were there to protect your clothes from your skin (and your skin from your clothes… Who ever wants sheep wool against their privates… itchy and scratchy indeed.) And these thinner layers would get washed regularly, even when the top layers were not.

          2. Random Bystander*

            That’s actually quite interesting. I’m not at all a clothing history nerd, but whenever I encounter details, I do find them genuinely interesting.

            1. JustaTech*

              Bernadette Banner (historical costumer on YouTube) occasionally does a video where she re-draws the covers of romance novels to make the clothing more historically accurate.
              They are quite funny and not prudish at all.

        2. Dinwar*

          In my experience it’s personal preference. I’ve got a medical condition where not wearing something can be uncomfortable. It’s an option, but not a great one for 8-10 hours. I do know a lot of guys who enjoy that aspect, especially on hot days (I’m being good, but I have stories….).

          The history is…complicated. The formal kilt I have is actually a Germanic shepherd’s skirt, very much what my persona in the SCA would have worn, but there’s no documentation one way or the other about what was worn under it. The Pictish battle kilt was traditionally worn with nothing but woad under it, but then the Picts infamously considered even the kilt to be overly dressy for combat.

      2. Observer*

        I have several, being a Medieval reenactor. I have a formal kilt (made under the tutelage of one of the top kilt-makers in Scotland), an everyday kilt, and perhaps best for this, my Pictish battle kilt, which is basically a miniskirt.

        This doesn’t happen often, but I did actually laugh out loud when I read this.

        Thanks for getting it!

    9. JenLP*

      Why do I have to spend the money instead of the company? Good clothes are expensive and having to change dress codes suddenly is unfair to half the population. Adding modesty panels protects everyone. Plus not all industries allow for such relaxed dress codes.

    10. Broadway Duchess*

      I get why “just wear pants” seems like the solution but it can be prohibitive for some. Trousers don’t fit me right off the rack. Literally, every pair of trousers (and jeans) I own are tailored. If I didn’t already have some, I’d have to buy them and with tailoring, I’d be looking at $500 for a week’s worth of bottoms. I don’t love my job that much.

    11. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Nothing in the letter suggested that people are wearing skirts because they’re forced to rather than because they choose to – your suggestion is as problematic as “just wear skirts!” would be. I’m a cis woman who hasn’t worn a skirt since high school (more than half my lifetime ago), and it was difficult for me to internalize that some people (of various genders) wear skirts by choice rather than requirement, but they really do, and shouldn’t be forced into wearing clothes that don’t suit their gender presentation because of furniture.

    12. learnedthehardway*

      Not really a simple solution. Personally, I went from not being able to find pants that fit when I was in my 20s because I was a size X in the waist and X+3 sizes in the hips. That entails a significant amount of tailoring, which is pretty cost-prohibitive unless you are a tailor, yourself.

      Even today, if I find a pair of pants that fit, I snap them up whether I like them or not.

    13. Observer*

      <I.A simple solution is to wear trousers. I wouldn’t buy new desks or use office budget to modify them when that solves the problem.

      Seriously?! You are going to require a significant proportion of your staff to buy all new wardrobes because you can’t be bothered to get proper furniture? And aside from the expense, there are a lot of additional reasons why this is not necessarily a viable solution.

      And that doesn’t even deal with the problem that trousers don’t actually completely solve the problem. As many people noted before you posted, no one wants people looking at their crotch even if they are wearing pants.

    14. DameB*

      Clothes are EXPENSIVE. If I had a whole damned wardrobe of skirts and dresses, then hell NO I’m not buying a whole buncha clothes that I am uncomfortable with just b/c some dude didn’t understand that some people wear skirts.

    15. Dust Bunny*


      I have never in my life found a pair of pants that actually fit me because my waist is one size but my hips are a size bigger and my thighs are at least a size bigger than that. To the point that having pants altered only sort of works, plus it means I have to pay for them twice. I’m not paying that much of my own money and also wearing uncomfortable clothes five days out of seven just because some bozo in management doesn’t think I deserve appropriate furniture.

    16. Karma is my Boyfriend*

      Are you giving me money to buy a new wardrobe? If not, then this is a company problem, not my choice of clothing.

  7. anononon*

    I remember the original letter and am still baffled as to why people at OP1’s company were diving under the desk *multiple times a day*. I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times I’ve got under my desk in the last few YEARS – usually to pick up a dropped paperclip and only once to change the fuse in the plug of my desk lamp. Surely there’s a more ergonomic solution, like relocating plug sockets or, I dunno, training on how to drop things less…?

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I once worked in an open plan office like OP’s where we were under the desks all the time. The computers were old and crappy, so was the phone system and the only way to get certain things working was to unlock or restart was to unplug. Lots of creepy guys in that office too. But, we had modesty panels. Anyway, even if you only got accidentally upskirted one time – isn’t that too many times?

    2. Dr. Rebecca*

      Can we not take a letter where the LW has said there’s a problem and tell her that it’s not a problem? Like for once? Please?

      1. Paris Geller*

        Right? I love AAM and normally I love the comments too but this particular trend is exhausting! Happened on the original thread too, though, so good to know nothing’s changed in 5 years.

    3. darsynia*

      My first thought was that they have the computers that tuck far under the desk and have USB connectors somewhere deeply inconvenient, and the job requires plugging in data sticks multiple times a day.

    4. Jackalope*

      From my own experience, I have a set of headphones that I only use at the office (so I don’t forget them somewhere), and I regularly need to plug them in under my desk (the only place to do so). And this is less regular, but I often snack while working and sometimes something drops and I have to pick it up. I kind of feel that between the option of rewiring the whole electric system to move the outlets (and at least in the US there are very specific requirements on how they can be used, such that I can’t just bring in an extension cord, for example) and telling people to police themselves all the time so as never to drop crumbs or bits of food, and just getting desks with the modesty boards, the second one is a lot easier and more workable.

      1. Observer*

        and at least in the US there are very specific requirements on how they can be used, such that I can’t just bring in an extension cord, for example

        And just to highlight something here – these restrictions are generally safety related. And sound.

    5. Generic Name*

      Ha ha, I think the whole office is just poorly designed. My last office had vastly too few wall outlets. People were plugging power strips into power strips. My current office has outlets mounted at desk height (and everyone has a sit-stand desk which is very handy when you do need to crawl under the desk because there’s much less crawling).

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I’m absolutely loving that it’s a surprise to some people that an open plan office might be badly designed.

    6. Broadway Duchess*

      To use the outlet for a laptop charger? I did that until I bought a spare for home and I had to plug it in in the floor every day.

    7. Observer*

      like relocating plug sockets or, I dunno, training on how to drop things less…?

      How do you “relocate” plug sockets? Even in an office where that’s possible, that’s going to be way more expensive than a furniture solution because you need to get an electrician in and get a bunch of wiring re-done. Have you priced out a *good* electrician recently? I don’t grudge them- I’d prefer to pay the price rather than risk burning the building down! But it’s not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination. And that assumes that you have walls near enough to the desks that you don’t wind up needing extension cords all over the place. (Talk about trip and fire hazards!)

      As for “training people to drop things less often”, I don’t even know where to start with that. But maybe it’s worth considering that this “solution” is essentially saying that the women in this office need to dress for the fact that *other people* are clumsy. And that the employer actually can realistically insure that all of the people who work and come into the office won’t even drop things.

      In other words, not a serious solution or any sort of willingness to actually *deal* with the issue. It’s brush off, and more blatant than most.

      1. Dinwar*

        “(Talk about trip and fire hazards!)”

        This is not a minor thing. I work for a multinational company that routinely handles things like toxic chemicals and explosives and cryogenic liquids and the like. Annually half our injuries and more than half our recordable injuries are slips/trips/falls in offices (most of the rest are “Dude in the field didn’t like wearing his PPE”). This isn’t unique either–we keep track of our competition (as they do us), and office injuries are a major contributor to elevated EMRs.

        Instituting a policy that necessarily increases the probability of such events is instituting a policy of intentionally harming your employees. You may as well hold a raffle where the winner gets their wrist or knee broken; morally speaking it’s the same thing. And even if you don’t care about your employees’ health and wellbeing, some contracts ban people with injury rates over certain levels from even applying, and if we see EMRs rising we definitely notice, even if it’s below the threshold.

        Safety gets a bad reputation, and I’m among the first to say it’s gone too far, but “Don’t create environments that actively make the worst safety issue you have even worse” seems like a super-low-hanging fruit here.

    8. Llama Llama*

      Because it’s a poorly designed office where the outlets are on the floor and not accessible from their desk

    9. Rainy*

      Training on how to…drop things…less…

      Yes, please tell me what that training would look like. I’m very excited to know, being someone who drops things all the time as result of my arthritis. Do you think the bosses should write people up for…dropping things? Do the people with arthritis or other injuries or medical conditions that cause poor grip strength get written up, or do they get a laminated floor pass for dropping things?

    10. birb*

      Plugging in and unplugging a laptop several times a day? A phone charger? An ipad? Hotdesking is also a new trend, you’d need to unplug everything every day and plug it in the next day.

  8. NotTheSameAaron*

    Perhaps a temporary solution would be a deskcloth, which is basically a tablecloth for desks.

  9. Bluz*

    I don’t understand why commentors are telling the women to change their clothes when it’s a legitimate request to ask for a modesty panel for a desk. It’s part of their job to sit there for 8 hours and they should be comfortable. Part of my job is to answer phones and I used headphones which were pinching my ears and made them sore after 8 hours. I mentioned it to my employer and they provided me with an alternative and now I can do my job without pain and headaches at the end of the day.

    1. High Score!*

      Men are not allowed shorts at our office, so I see their point. I’m a woman. I wear pants at the office. and everywhere actually because dresses are uncomfortable, pants protect my legs better, and if I have to kick someone then I don’t want to worry about s displaying my underwear. A more pointless impractical garment was never made. Even so, wear what you want, except at work, because most places have dress codes or uniforms so that people will focus on the job and not the attire.

      1. JenLP*

        It’s funny* you think dresses or skirts are pointless cause I feel similarly about pants/trousers. Skirts in particular fluctuate with weight (I can usually do three sizes in one skirt), I don’t need to worry about length and shoes, and if I’m kicking someone, I have free range of motion (either cause it’s a flowy skirt, or I’ve hiked it up) (and likely don’t care if they see my underwear). Pants are constricting, difficult to find the right size without tailoring, and typically are uncomfortable to me.

        *I genuinely mean it’s funny – Like I giggled a little because of how different our opinions are on this – humanity is such a joy with how different we all are!

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I’m with you about skirts. I’m a lab worker, but only go to slacks in cold weather. I can even argue that skirts are safer because they don’t fit tightly to the skin, making it easier to move a chemical spill away from your skin.

          One place I worked, I had to wear slacks and disliked it. That was also the place where the safety guy was upset because he had to buy latex gloves for me. I am sensitive to nitrile and my skin turns bright red with enough contact.

          1. High Score!*

            OK, I see JenLP’s point. I’m the labs I work in, skirts and loose flowy clothing in general would be dangerous. I work in electrical and mechanical labs. Even jewelry is discouraged. Loose clothing can catch on equipment. The weather could be pulled in, electrocuted, or subjected to tortures of the damned depending on what the clothing caught on. Yes, equipment is cordoned off and you can’t be in the lab without being trained.

            1. Lady_Lessa*

              I’m strongly anti loose clothing, and wear no jewelry at all m My favorite skirts tend to be slightly flared for easy movement, but not flowy enough to be dangerous. Not working around a lot of big equipment, it’s not an issue for me. But no loose sleeves, either.

            2. Dinwar*

              This is why dress codes exist. If someone came to my jobsite wearing a skirt I’d never let them within the CRZ, much less get near the rigs. WAY too much chance of getting injured or killed.

              However, the LW specifically states that they are within the bounds of their dress code. To argue “Well actually some areas don’t allow skirts for safety reasons!” is to argue that the LW is lying about this. The logic is absolutely no different from me saying “But since I work in areas with toxic fumes you should be wearing an SCBA with a full-face mask, Tyvek coveralls, and a 5-gas meter on you where you work.” I could easily make an argument that you should constantly be wearing Level A PPE–after all, you can’t KNOW that you won’t encounter site hazards, even in an office! I know of a dozen or more cases where indoor air quality in an office necessitated an evacuation (be VERY careful where you get your carpet from). I’m reasonably certain you’d say this is overkill. Similarly, expecting an office worker to comply with lab safety protocols outside a lab is overkill.

              Safety requirements are important, yes, but they need to be appropriate for the location the work is being conducted at. And since the skirts being worn in this office are clearly within the dress code, we can reasonably conclude (given that if this weren’t true modesty panels would be the absolute last thing on any sane person’s mind) that such skirts are reasonably safe in this environment.

        2. Punk Candyfloss*

          I am the same – I wore pants all the time in my 20s and early 30s, then as I neared my 40s I discovered the freedom and comfort of the maxi dress (one garment! and now they have pockets!) so for the past 10 years or so I wear dresses and skirts about 75% of the time. But I don’t wear short ones, so a modesty panel wouldn’t be needed – except I do usually store my bag/lunch/snow boots/etc under my desk during the day and potentially no one wants to see all that clutter. So I appreciate the panels we do have.

          1. Flor*

            Oh, yes, the pockets! I get so annoyed sometimes when I leave the house in jeans and have to bring a purse to have somewhere to put my phone. All my skirts have nice, capacious pockets (I can’t remember off the top of my head, but I think my pocket pattern is 8″ x 12″ – I made sure I could fit my ereader in them).

            1. bamcheeks*

              Currently wearing trousers I made myself with a) a 7:10 waist-hip ratio and b) massive pockets.

              (note: I am not proposing this as a solution that works for everyone, just gloating about my nice trousers. :D )

          2. Random Bystander*

            I remember when my daughter needed a black dress for concert wear (high school, she was in choir, band, and in the latter years also in full orchestra) … found a dress on eshakti and noted that they had an option that you would have to pay for to remove the pockets. My daughter was utterly aghast “Why would anyone want to do that [remove the pockets]?”

            Personally, I tend to live in these maxi-length tank dresses (with pockets!) and then put some sort of shirt over it depending on how dressy I want to go. Way more comfy than jeans or other slacks. Of course, I’m still work-from-home, so the only people who care what I look like are my cats (who don’t care at all).

        3. Flor*

          Same here!

          I find skirts, particularly long, flowy skirts, can be much more practical than pants; they allow for air flow in the summer and trap heat with layers of petticoats in the winter. They’re also easier to fit off the rack (jeans often dig in at awkward places for me as I have a disproportionately tall lower torso). And I LOATHE stretchy pants like leggings; they make me feel like a stuffed sausage.

          I’ve never had cause to kick someone while wearing a skirt (or, well, anything other than a karate gi), but I always test hem circumference with a low, wide stance, and I never have to hike a skirt up as I do with looser trousers.

          Just goes to show how different people’s preferences can be, and how personal something like the clothes we put on our bodies is.

        4. lilsheba*

          I can’t imagine wearing anything BUT pants. But then I wear soft elastic waist ones with a drawstring so they are the MOST comfortable things ever to wear.

        5. londonedit*

          Yep – at home I wear yoga leggings and big jumpers, but at the office I wear midi/maxi dresses and trainers. So comfortable, doesn’t matter if you have a big lunch or you’ve got your period, ridiculously easy to just throw on in the morning, and they seem to read as ‘smarter’ than trousers and tops. I have a lovely collection of dresses and I love wearing them. Doesn’t make me a bad feminist, just a woman who happens to think she looks great (and feels comfortable) in a dress.

        6. Silver Robin*

          I would also like to add that skirts can *layer*. I have four maxi skirts (huge pockets) that are reasonably sturdy cotton in solid colors. I can layer a patterned flowy skirt on top that is shorter and voila, whole new look (or a particularly large shawl, but you need to be cleverer with that). Want poof? Add appropriate petticoat or understructure. There is a lot more flexibility in skirts than I think folks realize.

          Skirts are wearable blankets, if you wear them long and like to be cozy. Want more blanket? Heavier skirts or add more skirts. Want less blanket? Thinner material or fewer skirts.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I have skirt I made twenty years ago which is LITERALLY a blanket. Ankle length, biascut, dark grey pure wool heavy coating fabric. I love it!

      2. Eliot Waugh*

        “I don’t like THING therefore people who do are silly and wrong” is children’s logic. Are you a child?

      3. Dust Bunny*

        This is literally how I feel about pants, with the rare exceptions of when I have to crawl under my car or ride a horse.

        I find pants mind-crawlingly uncomfortable and restrictive. They never fit me. They don’t adjust as you move (eat, bloat, breathe, etc.). And if your skirt is below the knee and has a little more sweep you can kick ass all day and not show your undergarments.

      4. JustaTech*

        ” A more pointless impractical garment was never made. ”

        Uh, you know for a long time everyone wore not-pants? Tunics – not pants. Toga – not pants. Kilt – not pants. Robe – not pants.

        There is a delightful rabbit warren to explore about the history of clothing around the world and when and why bifurcated lower body garments were introduced in various times and places.

    2. Observer*

      It’s part of their job to sit there for 8 hours and they should be comfortable. Part of my job is to answer phones and I used headphones which were pinching my ears and made them sore after 8 hours. I mentioned it to my employer and they provided me with an alternative

      Exactly this!

      It just boggles my mind how many people are saying that it’s “too much” to ask for office furniture that is basically comfortable to work with. Especially since what they are asking for is TOTALLY STANDARD.

  10. geek5508*

    Re: skirts in the office, all this reminds me of an IT gig long ago where I had to reroute the PC cabling under a woman’s desk. She was wearing a red skirt, hosiery, and heels, but when I explained I needed to get down on the floor under her desk and that she might want to get up for a short bit., she insisted I work while she remained in her chair. She was a VP so she had the clout to have me do the cable work right then rather than later.SO I crawled under there and got the cabling done as quickly as possible. I was about a foot from her legs, and kept my eyes ON THE COMPUTER CABLES the entire time. Very nerve wracking!

    1. Unfortunate Admin*

      This happens in an episode of IT Crowd and another woman sits down on the opposite side of the desk and Moss becomes trapped under the desk because it’s too awkward to say anything

  11. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

    Desperately wish there was an update on #2. I’ve been in that position so many times in my career and I would love to hear about someone receiving the training and tools they need and actually using them.

    In most of my experiences this becomes a broken stair scenario that makes everyone miserable and bitter. In the rare few where adequate training and support are provided, it’s come so late in the game (like more than a year after hire) that the employee refused to really engage with them or change their way of doing things. Possibly because they were never willing to learn or change in the first place, but I really think it was more about the bitterness and resentment and stories you start telling yourself when you don’t have the support you need to succeed for such a long time.

    Anyway, it was good advice and I really hope it worked out for them!

    1. Rebecca*

      I once worked with a woman like the one described in the letter: just entirely computer illiterate. She’d reentered the workforce after 20+ years.

      And there’s a positive ending. She signed herself up for a weekly class the local park district had for seniors (even though she was in her 50s). She actively tried to learn, so we all supported her when she needed help. Slowly but surely, she learned. Her positive attitude made all the difference. It’s difficult to resent someone that’s grateful and trying.

      So it happens. I’d guess it isn’t necessarily likely to happen that way, but those people exist.

  12. sad*

    Sad to see the commentary hasn’t improved much in four years. God forbid women want to sit comfortably for eight hours a day in their dresscode appropriate clothing without having to buy half a new work wardrobe of harder to fit clothing.

    1. Be Gneiss*

      Right? These comments have me so rankled. The vibe implies that you’d only need a modesty panel if you were blatantly immodest in your dress or posture. Very “*I’d* never need that. I know how to *sit like a lady.*” Super gross.

      1. High Score!*

        I’m a woman. I honestly don’t get it. If we had to have desks with modesty panels then they couldn’t be the sitting/standing desks. Won’t a desk cloth work? It can be placed on any desk, it’s mobile, and it can travel with the rare employee who needs it. It will even work around cabling.
        Again, as a woman, I support a woman’s right to dress as she pleases and be comfortable in the office. It just seems like they expect the office to accommodate their clothing, which is weird. Our office dress code allows nice jeans but not shorts. Yes, the men have fussed about that but the rule holds.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          There are legitimately fewer people who prefer a sitting/standing desk than there are people who could benefit from having a modesty panel, and yes, the office should accommodate the workers, seeing as the business is in a far better position to spend money to solve a problem than the people it pays to be there.

          1. roann*

            I mean, also… plenty of adjustable-height desks have modesty panels on the front. The ones in my office do.

          2. High Score!*

            About a third of the people I see coming into the office put the desks into standing mode. Anyone who really wants to wear a dress could stuff a desk cloth in their backpack and attach it to their desk. There’s literally no need for every desk to have a heavy panel. If enough women wanted them, they’d be made available at the front desk for people to check out.
            I’m a woman. I don’t see this as a thing to control women. I see this as women wanting the office to accommodate their fashion choices when businesses usually have dress codes or uniforms. At our office no one can wear shorts, so the men got together and complained and the rule still holds no shorts. IMHO it ought to be no skirts too. Skirts are dangerous in the lab, apparently they require a special desk to use, and put the wearers at risk of being upskirted.

            1. Ginger Baker*

              This entire argument is predicated on very faulty reasoning. Shorts for men (in most dress codes and apparently yours) would be ADDING something currently not allowed to the dress code. Banning skirts/dresses for women would be REMOVING something currently allowed (and with centuries of history of being allowed) from the dress code, which additionally would highly negatively impact the (many) women who have a wardrobe with significant numbers of those items and fewer work-appropriate pants. Likewise, modestly panels were REMOVED with the purchase of new desks (they were previously provided) and you are WRONGLY making the argument that one choice is sit/stand desks OR modesty panels when in fact there exist multiple options of sit/stand desks WITH modesty panels.

              1. learnedthehardway*

                Skirts were not just allowed, but required – long history on that. Even now, many women prefer to wear a skirt. Some religions require it.

            2. Jackalope*

              You may be of that opinion but that doesn’t mean you are correct. Labs have different requirements for clothing than office jobs do, and what is appropriate in one is not in the other. You see this as women wanting to be accommodated for their “fashion choices”, but what you are apparently missing is that precious desks had the modesty panel and everyone bought their office clothing not having any reason to think that would change. And now you think they should just… replace their entire office wardrobes (a very expensive matter) because their manager can’t be bothered to find a desk that doesn’t show off their crotch areas while working?

              And the whole dress code/uniform comment is entertaining because at many office jobs with dress codes, a pencil skirt is the epitome of female dress code observance. I mean, I’m as pro-trousers as anyone, but the OP stated that everyone was within the bounds of their dress codes.

            3. Annabelle*

              “(Skirts) apparently… require a special desk to use, and put the wearers at risk of being upskirted”

              Insanity has entered the chat so that’s great, I guess.

            4. Umami*

              Most jobs are not ‘in a lab’, so those requirements aren’t prevalent. Skirts are a clothing choice, not a ‘fashion choice’, and are completely acceptable in most office environments I can picture. I can’t quite envision the desk OP is complaining about, but if she says it’s a problem in their office space with their office layout, then … it is.

            5. K8T*

              Why is making women feel more comfortable at work confusing for you? I’ve never *not* had a modesty board and if I wear a skirt or dress that’s knee length, I certainly sit different if there’s not something in front of me.
              Just a strange hill to die on IMO

            6. birb*

              I’m sincerely sorry for whatever you’ve gone through that’s made you process the world in this way, but upskirting doesn’t happen because women wear skirts, it happens because predators get off on lack of consent. Do you think women going to the bathroom, or having bathrooms in an office is “putting bathroom users at risk of being filmed on hidden cameras”?

            7. JustaTech*

              1) With the possible exception of Bermuda shorts, men’s shorts are seen as very casual wear, where women’s skirts are not, so if the dress code is “business” or “business casual” that means yes skirts, no shorts (for everyone). Heck, it’s only very recently that pants were acceptable business clothing for women at all.

              2) Skirts are not universally dangerous in the lab (unlike, say, sandals). I was in the lab yesterday in a dress with a ~knee length A-line skirt. Last year I almost exclusively wore dresses in the lab because finding pants that are even vaguely work appropriate while you’re pregnant is pretty much impossible.
              The only times a skirt has been an issue in the lab was 1) the day I unexpectedly needed to climb up on the bench and it was in the way, and 2) the time I wore a pencil skirt and tried to use the super-supportive microscope chair with a saddle horn.

              3) My sit-stand desk includes a modesty panel – it is part of the vertical separator at the back of my desk that keeps me from staring at my coworker all day.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          If you’re interested, the thread started by Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow for explanations on why some women prefer to wear skirts/dresses rather than pants/trousers. A few other thoughts I have:

          – Modesty solutions (not necessarily panels) and sitting/standing desks don’t have to be mutually exclusive. As you mention, it could be your offices sit/stand desk models with a desk cloth. It could also be a standard desk with a modesty panel and a desktop sit/stand riser that raises just the monitor/keyboard but not the whole top of the desk.

          – I think sad and Be Gneiss are mostly referring to comments in the first thread on this page, where commenters are questioning “how do you sit immodestly in a skirt? don’t you have to know how to sit modestly on a bus or a park bench? can’t you just sit that same way for 8 hours every day at work?” The OP commented (under name OP#1) and I think answered those types of questions/concerns very well.

        3. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

          For whatever reason, my comment didn’t end up as a reply to this: You can definitely have a sitting/standing desk with a modesty panel. It’s just an extra rectangle of whatever attached to the front of the desk that will go up or down along with the desk. I did a Google search just to make sure.

        4. Orsoneko*

          All of the desks in my office are sitting/standing desks, and they all have panels in front. Those absolutely exist.

        5. Bibliothecarial*

          She isn’t expecting that the office accommodate her new fashion choices, she wants to be able to continue wearing the clothing she has been wearing that was fine for the office until the office changed the furniture.

        6. Punk Candyfloss*

          There are panels for standing desks, and modular desktop standing modalities that don’t require the bottom of the desk to move.

        7. lilsheba*

          *I* would fuss about not being able to wear shorts. I get very overheated very easily and have to be able to wear shorts in the summer or I will get heat exhaustion. And no I won’t wear skirts they aren’t comfortable for me.

        8. Observer*

          If we had to have desks with modesty panels then they couldn’t be the sitting/standing desks.

          Not true. Also, the OP’s office did not have sit / stand desks.

          it can travel with the rare employee who needs it

          Rare? In what universe? I get it – your norms have been badly warped. But in actual fact, it is extremely normal for women to wear skirts to work. In fact, in some workplaces it’s either officially or effectively required.

        9. Engineer*

          Modesty boards don’t affect sitting/standing desks unless you have a really cheap model, because the mechanism is in the legs. A modesty panel would attach to the edge of the desk top.

          And clearly, you don’t support a woman’s right to dress in skirts and dresses, because you have been all over these comments arguing that women should just wear pants.

        10. Ellis Bell*

          Er no, it’s totally possible to get a sit stand desk with a panel. Also, I didn’t see anything in OP’s letter to suggest that it was a sit stand desk, anyway? A sit stand set up is way more specialized and costly than a simple panel and they weren’t willing to accommodate that

        11. Ellis Bell*

          Just giggling at dresses and skirts being blanket described as “fashion”. Yeah, my comfy wooly numbers automatically put me on the cover of Vogue dontchaknow.

          1. birb*

            Some people’s definition of “fashion” is “women dressing to appeal to men” and also see women who wear skirts and dresses as *intentionally trying to appeal to men with their femininity* while also “acting” like they’re not doing it on purpose, while also reaping the benefits of men finding them attractive.

            Those people likely see this poster as wanting to be “accommodated” in their trickery while also trying to “pretend” they’re not using their feminine wiles and youth to get perks.

            They likely also think that she’s intentionally drawing attention to the fact that others can see her underwear now to get even MORE attention for her “made up problem” when it clearly has so many easy solutions, like a new wardrobe or just “keeping her knees together”. It’s gross.

        1. JustaTech*

          Ooh, my favorite new thing is that I an put much, much, much bigger pockets in the dresses and skirts I make than in any pants I am likely to buy.
          I’ve seen reenactors stick an entire bottle of Champagne in the pocket of some Victorian dresses (and have it be totally unnoticeable with all the other fluff going on).
          I already extend the pockets on most of my jeans, and maybe with looser-fit jeans coming back in style the pockets will be bigger?

    2. Modesty Poncho*

      I’m a woman and I’ve worn skirts to the office but my style is always well past the knee, and I’d never heard of a modesty panel before. So trying to parse this question was extremely difficult. Once I figured out we were talking about a piece of wood on the front of the desk everything made a lot more sense! But before then I was definitely thinking “What…kind of skirt are you wearing?” (I think I thought “modesty panel” meant something on the back side of the desk so someone standing behind you couldn’t look down?)

      1. Ellis Bell*

        It was pretty obvious most people didn’t know what they were and don’t understand that they have already seen them; they’re on most desks. But why don’t people simply say “I’ve never heard of that, what is it?” Instead we had a lot of Official Advice about how to sit and dress without benefit of the mystery item.

        1. birb*

          That’s what gets me. They’re the default! They’ve been the standard for a LONG time! And still a woman must be getting her (now visible) panties in a bunch if she requests one?

      2. birb*

        But even then, they mentioned their old desks had them, and people are still assuming the fault is with the woman and she must be unreasonable and doing something wrong or dressing immodestly. The fact that people made that wild leap without even looking up what a modesty panel was…. It’s just the front wall of a desk.

        The problem here is who is initially given the benefit of the doubt, and it takes a LOT of messed up, deep-down feelings about women and femininity and how they dress to read the entire letter, then read Allison’s entire response, then still leave confused enough to comment the garbage some people are saying in the comments here.

      3. Dr. Rebecca*

        Oddly, that *is* what it means if you’re talking about corsets. The panel of stiffened fabric that goes under the back laces and covers any gap.

      4. Always Tired*

        Also, frankly, with the number of time I’ve seen men make adjustments or scratch an itch, I think men also benefit from having a modesty panel to hide behind.

        1. Dinwar*

          From a male perspective, yes!! We don’t do this sort of thing because we’re gross, we do it because sometimes things get really, really uncomfortable. Seams are not gentle, and something like 1 in 3 men will have a benign lump on their testicles at some point in their lifetimes (something our educational system refuses to talk about), which only makes this problem worse.

          Most men are good. Most are just trying to alleviate discomfort. And most of us don’t want anyone else to see it. A bit of privacy is a blessing!

  13. RVA Cat*

    #1 – Imagine if a man showed up in a kilt, worn traditionally with nothing underneath. Modesty boards would be back so fast.

    1. La Triviata*

      There’s an annual Scottish celebration in my area and someone once asked what is worn under the kilt. The response was, “nothing is worn under the kilt … it’s all in perfect working order.”

      1. Dinwar*

        In my experience, yes absolutely.

        The first time I wore my Pictish battle kilt I wasn’t really familiar with the mechanics of the thing. I was educated, quite pointedly–and I mean that literally, the guy in question had a sword in his hand (live steel). I’m reasonably certain he wouldn’t have actually hurt me (much; given our friendship a little blood was neither here nor there), but it left an impression.

        Another time, in college, I was wearing a mid-thigh length skirt and a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses literally ran from me. That was the point–we saw them going door to door preaching and none of us wanted to deal with it, and we all figured the best way to address it was for me to wear a skirt. (To be clear, we had nothing against the religion, we just didn’t want to deal with the door-to-door aspects that day.) I had the best figure for it, so I got to wear the skirt.

        At my wedding no one had a problem that I’m aware of, but the high table had a fairly broad cloth on it (as was appropriate). Our mothers, spouses, girlfriends, and sisters made sure we were aware of how to sit as well.

    2. Cyndi*

      When I was in high school we had a history teacher who notoriously wore a utilikilt to every open mic night and sat in the front row with his legs open. People stopped coming to open mic nights, the school stopped offering open mic nights, and a few years after I graduated I heard from a younger friend (a senior at that point) that he’d finally been fired for making inappropriate jokes to her AP Gov class about a group of first graders who’d come to the high school to sing Christmas carols.

      This is all to say that I don’t think it would be particularly funny or charming for an adult to do this to other adults in the workplace either.

  14. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

    You can definitely have a sitting/standing desk with a modesty panel. It’s just an extra rectangle of whatever attached to the front of the desk that will go up or down along with the desk. I did a Google search just to make sure.

    1. TechWorker*

      by ‘front’ of the desk presumably you mean ‘the bit furthest away from the person sat at the desk? I don’t know about all desks but the ones in my office are back to back sit stand desks without modesty panels (but different situation to the OP because I have to crawl under my desk about once a year not 3 times a day). I’m pretty sure these desks cannot be retrofitted with a modesty panel due to the construction and it would be pretty costly to demand the company replace all of them. Doesn’t mean you can’t demand it! But it is a fairly big ask…

  15. kiki*

    But the way Jane’s going about it is a problem: she’s just asking for help doing the task in front of her, instead of trying to learn how to work a whole system. There’s no way she can learn everything she needs to learn to keep up with her workload like that.

    I think you’re currently in a better situation to see that a few hours away from her immediate tasks to invest in training will server Jane better in the long run than getting through her tasks for the day. I think the best solution, which would come from her manager, is to actually set aside time during her work week for this training. With a new job it’s easy to get sucked into the trap of, “Oh, I have to start being productive and doing these tasks to prove myself. I’ll learn the overall program one day, but I need to start getting these things done, even if I’m doing them inefficiently.” You and her manager are the ones who have the perspective and authority to day, “Hey, these next two days won’t have a lot of immediate output delivered, but doing this training will pay major dividends for this employee’s efficiency in the long run.”

  16. Phryne*

    So, I know this was discussed in a weekend thread recently, but anyone else has replies not appearing until hours later? Do they go to moderation and if so, am I on a watchlist or something because it seems like all my replies do these days, no matter the subject?

    1. Hlao-roo*

      If your replies aren’t appearing until hours later, then yes, they went to moderation. There are four main reasons a comment goes to moderation (that I know of):

      1 – comment has a link in it
      2 – comment has a certain word/phrase in it (the list of words/phrases isn’t published anywhere because then people would just work around it by misspelling words or using different words)
      3 – sometimes posting a lot of comments in a short amount of time will trip the moderation filter because you look like you could be a bot
      4 – mod filters often have unknowable quirks and will occasionally grab comments without any apparent rhyme or reason

      1. Phryne*

        Of course, all my comments after this one went through without a hitch. :)
        I’m going with door number 4.

  17. Malicious Compliance*

    For #1, everyone could have bought dollar store tablecloths, tape them to the front of each desk, cut them raggedy “to fit,” and let the management deal with the ugly aesthetic.

  18. La Triviata*

    I’ve also seen stories about buildings that install glass (or clear plastic) stairs. Woman who wear skirts have problems; there have been problems with men who stand underneath and take upskirt photos as women walk up.

    1. JustaTech*

      I would have a problem but it wouldn’t be about being upskirted – those stairs sound literally like nightmares I have had. I don’t like stairs in open atriums, I have a really, really hard time forcing myself to use floating stairs. Clear stairs? I can feel my heart rate accelerating just thinking about them.

      It’s worse than that glass path out over the Grand Canyon – at least there you have a good reason for a glass floor – an amazing view. Inside an office building? Nope.

  19. Gracie*

    The sheer amount of disdain for women who wear skirts in these comments is absolutely baffling

    I would have thought we’d have progressed from the last time this letter was run and people told OP that it was her fault for not being more ladylike, just wear trousers if you don’t want to be upskirted, but apparently not because here we are, with exactly the same comments

    1. Umami*

      Yes, it is quite puzzling! Skirts and heels are legitimate and common choices for work attire. What people choose to read into the choices women make on how they dress for work is … astounding.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        It’s not even skirts and heels. I will be wearing my skirt with biker boots and a Christmas jumper tomorrow (it’s Christmas jumper day at work) because I can wear warm wooly tights with the skirt, and also the shoes with the best grip soles when it’s icy between my school’s buildings. I could not wear these boots with pants. I totally think heels are legitimate style options, but skirts are a step above being just an option; they are genuinely comfier, warmer, more possible options for some of us.

        1. Umami*

          True, I just mentioned heels because that was brought up the other day, and there was also a weird piling on of why any woman would ever actually choose to wear them!

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Yeah, I’m getting strong “I’m not like other women” vibes from some of these comments.

    3. DameB*

      Yes. I didn’t expect this from AAM’s commentariat. This is FB level crap and I’m thoroughly annoyed with many of these folks!

    4. Eliot Waugh*

      It’s honestly sad. Anyone who apparently gets that much of their identity from being different from other women needs to really unpack a lot of internalized sexism.

    5. Cyndi*

      Purely practically speaking it’s wild to me how many people are going “oh just mothball or replace half your otherwise totally work-appropriate wardrobe! No big deal!” What can a pair of pants cost, Michael, ten dollars?

    6. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I mean, maybe I’m reading a different comment section today, but I’ve only seen a couple of people say that, and they’ve been RESOUNDINGLY shouted down.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I agree. I am seeing a lot of disagreement about what we like to wear, and why. But a decent amount of acceptance about our choices.

      2. Phryne*

        I think there were a high amount of early comments with this view. When I first looked there seemed to be a lot on the torso of comments, but now that the number of comments is rising, they become fewer by comparison. It is a bit like the ultra-anti-anything-social-at-work comments I think. they are not a majority, but quite vocal and they draw out a lot of replies.

        1. Cyndi*

          Having looked over the comment section again I think it’s also that a few people have been really digging in their heels at length about it, so it might feel like a bigger share of commenters than it actually is.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes — I’m on vacation so I’m not going to do an actual count but having just gone through to do some clean-up and put a note at the top, I think it’s roughly three or so people, who are then being shouted down by everyone else.

            1. Observer*

              Thanks for doing the cleanup. But yeesh! It really should not have been necessary. I’m sorry that you had to deal with it on your vacation.

          2. Be Gneiss*

            Earlier in the morning there was a higher proportion of people saying they couldn’t understand how it could be a problem. It does seem to have evened out some, which is encouraging. Even more encouraging (to me at least) are the comments that say “I didn’t even know what a modesty panel was until I googled and read the comments, and at first I thought it was unnecessary but now I’ve read what people have to say, and I’ve changed my mind and see how it’s a valid concern.” That feels like progress and warms my grinchy heart.

      3. Observer*

        I mean, maybe I’m reading a different comment section today, but I’ve only seen a couple of people say that, and they’ve been RESOUNDINGLY shouted down.

        I think you are right. The problem is that they have REALLY been digging their heels in. And at least one of them showed up in several sub threads. So it is showing up all over the discussion, and it’s tiring. But still better than it could have been…

  20. BellyButton*

    I may get some push back for this, but that is fine.
    Computers have been an every day thing since the late 90s. I have little tolerance for the Janes in this world. It is your responsibility, if you want to work, to keep your skills current. There are very few jobs left in this world where you don’t have to use a computer for something. Just a couple of weeks ago the hotel cleaning staff had iPads and were using a system to see which rooms were vacant and ready to be cleaned and tracking the time in each room.
    It is Jane’s responsibility to get her skills up to speed for the job she wants. Her manager needs to know now.
    The other thing, I don’t even ask if people can use general Microsoft products, because my expectation is that anyone who wants a job in an office knows they need it. I would only ask if I needed them to have advanced skills, like Pivot tables, or photo editing, that kind of thing. As the kids who are currently in HS begin entering the workforce, we will have to change expectations around this. Since most are only using tablets now- they are not using Microsoft and aren’t being taught it.
    A 50 yr old (it is not an age thing)

    1. Pita Chips*

      Definitely not an age thing. I’ve been using computers in the office since the late eighties, even.

      Something that was serious then, but funny now: In my office, we were only allowed to be in front of them for four hours a day and pregnant women weren’t allowed to use them at all. I forget the reasoning. Radiation, maybe?

      1. Observer*

        Radiation, maybe?

        Mostly. Partly too much fear. But also, in the beginning a lot of monitors had almost no shielding and CRTs can actually emit a fair amount of low frequency radiation. As the safety standards improved, that became less of an issue.

        Flicker was also a thing – LCDS are much easier for people who have an issue with that.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      There are many, many jobs in which you don’t have to use a computer. This is starting to feel very classist.

      1. Phryne*

        Not really, not anymore. When a repairman comes to my house, they have a tablet which has the work orders. I sign digitally on the tablet, pay on the attached pin pad and get my receipt in the mail. Cash registers are computers. Order pickers work with computers. Mail carriers work with computers. Blue collar work is as digitised as any other work.
        Also, basic computer skills have been taught/required in schools (at least in most countries) since the late 80ies.
        Not everybody needs to be a whiz at computers, but knowing how to do the most basic functions is as normal a skill to expect as basic reading and writing skills.

  21. BellyButton*

    WHOA the comments about skirts are shocking! I wear skirts and dresses ALL THE TIME. And it isn’t good physically to sit with your legs crossed for 10 hrs a day. And no matter how “modestly” one sits if the skirt is knee length or above, if someone was crawling under the desk in front of me they could very well get a view up my skirt. Also, shifting positions could also lead to this.
    I am so surprised and disappointed in what I am reading here. Come on AAM commenters, you are better than this.

  22. Lisa B*

    For OP1’s situation, I bet a cloth modesty panel could be proposed instead? Surely management will push back against the cost of buying all new desks but it is absolutely on them to find a way to make this right for their employees! Find a seamstress to make fabric panels that can flex around the cords but provide the privacy needed. Maybe they velcro around the legs of the desk?

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Done right, a desk skirt could be an aesthetic and functional upgrade.

        It should still be on the company’s dime and not LW#1’s, but it would be a solution a LW could take into their own hands.

    1. Lisa B*

      I have seen something even tacked all around the front of a table at weddings/conferences, so that a regular table looks like it has a full length tablecloth but it’s just the skirting around the edge- something like that would work!

  23. Coffee Protein Drink*

    I learned a new phrase today. I can honestly say I never considered this when I wore skirts.

  24. K*

    This is a genuine question: what do the women in the first letter do when sitting at a table or just a chair not pushed against either a desk or a table? Could they just do whatever they do in that situation or am I not understanding the specifics of this properly?

    1. Katara's side braids*

      Usually when people are sitting at that kind of table or chair, it’s relatively temporary (shorter meetings, public transit, waiting rooms). Most of us do not expect the added cognitive load of keeping our legs properly positioned when we’re in our permanent work space, because our employers recognize that that would cost efficiency.

    2. Observer*

      Could they just do whatever they do in that situation or am I not understanding the specifics of this properly?

      No and yes.

      No, because it’s one thing to keep your knees together or ankles crossed for a short amount of time but it’s very different – and bad for most parts of your body – to do this for hours at a time 5 days a week. Yes, because clearly that’s somethig you haven’t thought of.

      What I want to know is why you still need to ask this, given the *extensive* discussion in the comments about this?

    3. Ellis Bell*

      Genuine questions deserve genuine answers. So, in the UK most of us wear skirts to school so I was in single figures of age when I learned how to wear a skirt without letting my knees hang open. It is genuinely second nature. If my knees are pointed towards open space, or people, my knees automatically touch each other. I might cross my ankles, or point my knees to the side, or cross my legs to help with the “keeping knees together”, but I’m not really consciously thinking about it. At some point, usually about after half an hour, I realize I’m not comfortable. I will shift position significantly and this will probably buy me another half an hour. This isn’t really often required! Most seats are not out in empty space, or pointing at people like thrones. Most desk surfaces are wide enough to cover legs and crotches; if they’re not, they have fronts (modesty panels). Even public transport, which is not famed for comfort has seats pointing all the same way, so. your knees touch a seat’s back (I was a bit disconcerted by the tube in London which is knees pointed at each other, but the journeys were too short to count, plus you can stand occasionally.)

      1. JustaTech*

        Oh subways with two long benches facing, what a study in the different way that men and women sit on public transit.
        When I rode the T in Boston one thing I frequently saw on the lines with those style of trains was a Dude (not a guy or a man or a boy, but a Dude) who would spread his knees so far apart that he was past the midpoint of the two adjacent seats, while the women on either side would be sitting at a 45 degree angle, knees squashed together, glaring at this Dude. (Dudes did not often attempt this when seated between men.) Man-spreading at its worst.

        (Also, in Boston for half the year you’re wearing a coat on public transit so you’ve likely got a lot more coverage.)

        1. Cyndi*

          As a general rule I’m very practiced at sitting politely in a skirt but if I have to sit next to one of these guys I will absolutely spread and push back no matter what I’m wearing. Heck with ’em.

    4. Dinwar*

      Angles matter. A table is generally going to be wider than a desk, so someone walking up to you is going to be much less apt to see your bottom half. Whereas a desk is quite narrow as these things go, and its’ fairly easy for a standing person to see below it.

      If you’re using like a tray table or some smaller table, obviously the angles will be more like with a desk–but generally if you’re using a tray table you’re not going to be there 8-10 hours at a time.

      Further, there’s a duration aspect to this. Sitting at even a small table for a day is annoying, but doable for most people. Even sitting in a chair without a desk. But being expected to do either as a standard part of your job is something else entirely. Things that are annoying but tolerable at the 8 hour mark can because unendurable agony at the 60 hour mark.

  25. Andromeda*

    Annoying to see people out and out refuse to believe OP1 when one of the tenets of the site is “take writers at their word”.

    Having to continually squeeze your legs shut, cross them or even just be mindful of other people possibly seeing your underwear sounds really irritating and yeah, your company should at least be *interested* in reducing that discomfort.

    And “wear different clothes” isn’t really a good alternative, unless the company wants to buy trousers for all the women there.

    1. This_is_Todays_Name*

      I wear longer skirts/dresses of gauzy/lightweight materials on those occasions when I do, and I’d still be uncomfortable! I don’t *think* anyone could ever see my underwear, but if the skirt rides up/shifts as I cross/uncross legs, move around, sometimes sit with a leg bent under me, there might be some cellulite, inevitable bruises (I’m very clumsy) or varicose veins on view. So, “longer skirts” isn’t necessarily the answer. “Include a variety of people in your office design and planning” is the answer!

  26. Tradd*

    Letter 2:

    We sort of had an intern at my company (freight forwarder/customs broker) a few months back. Guy was the son of a friend of one of the owners. He’s supposedly majoring in supply chain so this was to get him some experience to what happens at a forwarder. Turned out he had no idea how to work MS Office at all. No Word, Excel, or Outlook. I have no idea how someone gets through high school and into college without knowing how to use word processing/spreadsheets and email. Even if someone was used to Google products from high school, the knowledge should have been enough to carry over. He also couldn’t write at all. Spelling horrid, write like he was texting. I passed along an assessment to the owner (to pass along to guy’s parent) that he needed to do classes on MS Office as well as a writing class. He was supposed to be with us several days a week but after the first day, we never saw him again.

  27. AdminGirl*

    I agree with other commentators that I am disappointed by how many comments to #1 are refusing to take the LW at her word that this is a problem. She even wrote in to this comments section to explicitly state that other women in the office were having the same problem with the desks. Many commentators before me have gone into the reasons why it’s not so simple for all women to just change their wardrobe or start wearing pants, so I won’t reiterate all of that. I will bring up that for me personally, I’m on the spectrum and have sensory issues, so I find wearing pants to be very uncomfortable – it’s not a fashion issue for me. More to the point, it sounds like the new desks were making a good portion of the employees at the company unhappy, so I think Alison’s original advice to the LW that they did have grounds to complain and to do it as a group was completely appropriate.

    1. Menace to Sobriety*

      Agreed! I don’t have sensory issues but I do have an awkward body shape. A smaller waist, larger butt/hips and big thighs, narrow calves–oh and I’m apparently a weird height(?) so that regular pants are 4-6″ too long and “short or petite” pants are like 2″ too short so, that’s fun! Pants NEVER fit right. They twist, they bunch at the crotch, the waist rolls or bends over. If I were in a position where the choice was “well, wear pants or worry about your underwear being shown to everyone” I’d be LIVID.

  28. H3llifIknow*

    Our Air Force program office has cubicles and what can only be called “officles”. They are simply larger cubicles with higher, but not “to the ceiling high” walls. So, while they APPEAR to be pretty private, you hear anything over a normal low speaking tone. I’ve heard people yelled at, cussed at, some uncomfortable spousal conversations. The design is awful. Oh and the cubes were shrank to fit more people in, with a 6 inch glass top, which we were told MULTIPLE times NOT TO TOUCH, ever. No hanging anything, no touching, nothing. Thank goodness I WFH now. I pity the poor folks who have to be in the office 3-5 days a week though!

  29. sleepy in St Paul*

    Why, why, why is it so hard for people to be direct in a kind manner? So many issues would go away if the person who is concerned/alarmed/irritated would talk to the person one-on-one and clearly state what the issue is and how it affects her work. Period. Then wait for a reply. then, if the issue was not addressed, say it again to be sure the message was understood.
    In my experience men and women want to avoid awkward conversations, but without those conversations, nothing changes. In a job, in a marriage, in a rec sports league, etc.. It is universal.

    1. ms. mascara*

      Because when you’re upset about something it’s easy to know you SHOULD be direct and kind, but difficult to figure out specifically how to express things calmly that you aren’t actually calm about. Sometimes you think you’re being direct and kind and reasonable and you’re absolutely not and things get worse. I speak from experience in work, and my personal life, and rec sports leagues.

  30. Lindsay*

    We had this issue at my office when we got new desks. I pushed the issue, and 4 months later, they installed panels. I am glad I’m pushed the issue despite several people acting uncomfortable. My alternative plan was to buy a poster board, write “lift for a free show” and tape it to the front of the desk ;)

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