Female Cuomo staffers say they were pressured to wear makeup, heels, and dresses to please the governor and get ahead professionally

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NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on July 23, 2020 in New York City

  • Female aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo say there was an informal dress code for women in his office.
  • A dozen young women told The New York Times they felt pressured to wear dresses, heels, and makeup around him.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A slew of female aides to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo say they were either explicitly told or felt pressured to wear makeup and dress up to please the governor and get ahead professionally.

Twelve women told The New York Times that there was a general understanding that they should wear heels, dresses, and makeup when in Cuomo’s presence. More than a dozen women who’ve worked for Cuomo told New York Magazine that the governor and his top female aides applied heavy pressure to dress well and in expensive clothing. Some said they were specifically directed to wear heels when in the governor’s presence. Several current and former aides in the governor’s office told The Times that women who are tall, thin, and blonde were favored in the hiring process.

Another former aide named Kaitlin, who asked that her last name not be used, told New York Magazine that the governor would criticize her physical appearance if she came to work with wet hair or otherwise didn’t meet his standards. She said he would tell her, “You decided not to get ready today?” or, “You didn’t put makeup on today?”

One former staffer, Ana Liss, said an executive assistant to the governor told her, “When the governor is here, you need to look really good.”

A current senior aide and two former staffers told The Times they believed they were passed over for certain professional opportunities because of how they dressed. Three former staffers said they had to dress the way Cuomo wanted if they desired special attention from the governor. Staffers who dressed according to Cuomo’s code would be seated at desks in view of his office in the Capitol building, The Times reported.

Cuomo’s office has denied claims about the informal dress code for women.

“Not now nor has there ever been an expectation to wear certain clothing or high heels,” Richard Azzopardi, a top adviser, told The Times.

These allegations come as the New York Attorney General’s office is overseeing an investigation into multiple claims of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances made against Cuomo by eight women, including former aides. New York State lawmakers have initiated an impeachment inquiry and the majority of the state’s congressional Democrats are calling on the governor to resign.

On Friday, the governor again denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign.

Peter Yacobellis, who was Cuomo’s deputy director of administrative services from 2011 to 2014, told The Times there was “clearly a toxic environment for many women in the governor’s office” and no substantial sexual harassment training.

“If you are a woman who wants to focus on work, it is the worst place to be,” New York State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, who was an aide to Cuomo for seven months in 2017, told The Times. Biaggi is an outspoken critic of the governor, whom she’s called a “monster,” and is calling on him to resign.

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