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High Heels in the Workplace: Formulating a Search Strategy

Build upon one helpful article

The most efficient way to find literature on attitudes toward high heels in the workplace is to begin with one or two particularly relevant articles, and look at their bibliographies.

What is a helpful article?

  • an article that directly covers your topic
  • an article that provides a bibliography of other references that directly cover your topic

Reading helpful articles will help you develop a sense of what terms are most useful: business attire, shoes, women and dress, etc.

How to find that one helpful article?

  • This topic - high heels in the workplace - is crossdisciplinary.
  • It is also a topic that has evolved over time, and with levels of work. 
  • The term "high heels" is sometimes used as a code word to signify women's low intelligence, or low status as secretaries, rather than literally as an item of clothing.
  • In some ways, women's dress was a topic much discussed before many women entered business careers - in the 1980s and 90s. This may be why some of the derogatory comments made today are made by older men, who have not updated their ideas of women employees.
  • Ironically, some of the present day discussion centers around women objecting to being forced to wear high heels in certain job fields.
  • In these cases, the topic of women being forced to wear high heels has become a union issue.
  • High heels are generally covered in broader articles on business attire.
  • The topic is covered in business, psychology, American Studies, and general news sources.
  • A search for high heels and the workplace in Google will bring up web sites and current news items.

Searching Advice

  • If you find that your results in database searches are not right on target, consider modifying the original search to a "field search."
  • This means that instead of searching for inclusion of your search terms across every word in an article, you will look for the appearance of the terms in an abstract or a subject heading.
  • Since the abstract and subject heading specifically use a term in a certain context, the inclusion of terms here increases the likelihood that the article will directly address a topic.
  • To do a field search in most databases, go to "Advanced Search." Enter your term(s). On the drop down menu to the right of the terms, click and choose "Abstract" or a term that signifies a subject heading.

Examples of good articles:

  • Binkley, C. (2012, November 8). Power flats challenge high heels. Wall Street Journal Eastern Edition, pp. D1-D4. Full-text available in the Wall Street Journal database. To retrieve the article, search by date, using key words from the author's name and article title.
  • Lepore, M. (2014, March 6). The history of the power suit. Retrieved from
  • Linehan, C., Buckley, J. & Koslowski, N. (2009). "Backwards ... and in high heels": Exploring why women have been underrepresented at senior academic levels, 1985-2010. Journal of Workplace Rights, 14(4), 399-417. Full-text available in Business Source Premier (an EBSCO database). In the database, find the article by inputting key words from the author's name, article title, and journal name.
  • Morris, P.H., White, J., Morrison, E.R.,& Fisher, K.  High heels as supernormal stimuli: How wearing high heels affects judgements of female attractiveness. Evolution and Human  Behavior, 34(3), 176-181.
  • Ruetzler, T.,Taylor, J., Reynolds, D., Baker, W., & Killen, C. (2012). What is professional attire today? A conjoint analysis of personal presentation attrubutes. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 31, 937-943. Full-text available in ScienceDirect. To retrieve the article, search by date, using key words from the author's name and article title.
  • Zinko, C. (2013, August 20). CEO’s sexist comment redux: Are heels appropriate at work? Retrieved from

Please note:

If you link to a database from off-campus, you will be prompted to enter your Salem State email username/password to be validated through the Proxy Server.

How These Articles Were Found

This is the search strategy used to find the above "good" articles:

  •  Finding the Linehan and Binkley articles:
    • In EBSCO, selected all databases, rather than just Business Source Premier.
    • Wanted to see the range of databases accommodating this topic. Found that it was covered as much in news and general sources as in the business press.
  • Finding the Reutzler article:
    • Went to ScienceDirect.
    • Limited the search to the section for "Business, Management, and Accounting."
    • Searched first for high heels and women and business.
    • Shifted the search to business attire and women and business. This was more productive.
  • Finding the Morris article:
    • Went to PsycINFO.
    • Searched for women and high heels and business.
    • Tried also women and attire and business.
  • Finding the Lepore and Zinko web sites:
    • Performed searches in Google: women and high heels and business.

Suggested Keywords

  • "high heels" and women and business
  • attire and women and business
  • dress codes and women and business
  • substitute management for business
  • women's business attire
  • workplace or business or management
  • shoes

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