The Securities and Exchange Commission has told Avon Products Co. it must give shareholdes a chance to vote on a proposal by Washington activist stockholder Evelyn Y. Davis.

Davis wants the cosmetics company to disclose how many male "Avon ladies are on its payroll and how many men are employed as secretaries, receptionists, telephone operators in jobs traditionally filled in the past by women.

Avon asked the SEC for permission to leave the proposal out of the proxy statement sent to shareholders in advance of the companys annual meeting.

But the SEC said shareholders should be allowed to consider Davis' resolution. Even if approved by Avon shareholders, the proposal would not be binding and the company would be under no obligation to make the disclosures asked.

In several instances corporations have accepted Davis' suggestions without putting her resolutions to a vote.One of Davis' suggestions has received wide corporate acceptance deals with disclosure of legal fees paid by corporations.

The decision in the Avon case came from SEC staff members who have ruled against Davis in several recent decisions, allowing four companies to ignore Davis' resolutions.

Armco Steel Corp. and El Paso Natural Gas complained that Davis brought up resolutions for their stockholders only after the companies' executives refused to subscribe to her publication, "Highlights and Lowlights."

Davis has denied this charge. She said that many corporations do not subscribe to "Highlights and Lowlights" and that her resolutions at stockholder meetings bear no relationship to her subscriber list.

"Highlights and Lowlights" is aimed at top corporate executives. It includes reports and pictures of Davis' stockholder activities, political impressions and notes on personal travel and Washington social functions.