Women in the workforce: impact of physical appearance

TEMP ORARY April 20, 2012 0

What if you found out that your slaving away for a 4.0 was in vain? What if I told you that, instead of investing in your education, you should be shelling out for a nose job and some liposuction instead? While I would never actually tell you to swap your books for a brow lift, your physical appearance might be more important than you think. Your looks just might be the deciding factor in whether or not you get your dream job.

It is no secret that, as humans, we are drawn to pretty people. For example, why do those people in Hollywood show up everywhere? Oh, it’s because we love to look at them. But where do we draw the line? Should our inclination for sexiness impact which people get certain positions at work? Whether you think they should or they shouldn’t, looks matter.

In fact, being beautiful can actually hurt your chances of landing an interview, according to a recent study by HuffingtonPost.com. Let this be a warning to all you sexy ladies out there: do not attach your picture to your application materials. All those female recruiters will get jealous and throw your app in the trash. Once you land the interview, however, it’s a different story. That’s the time to whip out the lipstick and classy pantsuit. Apparently, looking hot could really, really help you out.

Studies regarding the impact physical appearances have on job-hunting, like one done by Newsweek in 2010, have only bad news for ugly folks. Fifty seven percent of hiring officials in Newsweek’s study said that people who are qualified but less attractive would have more trouble landing a job. Ouch.

Having extra pounds can also be a hindrance in the workforce. HuffingtonPost.com reported that obesity is associated with an 18 percent wage reduction and a 25 percent decrease in family income.

An 18 percent wage reduction? That’s a pretty big deal. Because I do not like believing that higher-ups would cut wages due to weight, this number got me thinking: perhaps there is an underlying factor at play. Obesity is associated with a lot of health problems, for example, so maybe obese people are missing more work due to illness and are thus receiving lower incomes. This is just a potential reason that I came up with to ease my conscience because, really, how can your body size reduce your income by that much? That’s messed up.

Do obese individuals stand no chance? And should the ugly yet brilliant people take up telemarketing? Ok, let’s not be dramatic. These studies may reflect some really nasty, shallow human tendencies. However, not all employers are shallow. Director of Career Services Jane Nini said, “Any ethical employer will not base their decisions on physical appearances.” She added, “If decisions are based on things other than qualities relevant to the job, it is discrimination. That is illegal.”

Nini raised a good point, and said, “Clothing and cleanliness are not the same as physical attributes, and they do contribute to professional presentation and they absolutely matter.” Cheers to this! While it is totally unfair for an employer to give a job to one person over another based on dress size, giving it to the person who dressed the most professionally is something totally different.

Perhaps the reason that hot people tend to succeed is because … well … they know they look good. Perhaps they walk into an interview with greater confidence. Maybe it’s actually that confidence, and not facial symmetry, that boosts their chances in the workforce. I mean, if I were hiring somebody to work for me, I’d definitely take assurance over apprehension. So start off on the right foot and have an air of confidence and professionalism at the interview, where your employers get their first impression of you.

I want to stress that women need to continue to prove their worth in the workplace. Do not depend on looks to bring you success, or blame your failures on them. While being gorgeous may help you in some places, it won’t help you everywhere. Less-than-stunning individuals and beauty queens alike need to take steps to look professional and be confident. If you’re qualified and carry yourself with a sense of authority (don’t be cocky, though), whether you’re hot or not, you can succeed.

So please, please, please do not run out and get a tummy tuck after reading this. Invest in a blazer, instead! And some shampoo! And maybe a haircut! It’s not about natural beauty; it’s about what you do to best present yourself. Work with what you have and what you know. Make it known that you are savvy and the best one for the job.

If you play the busty-bimbo role, you’re bound to be an office problem and, not to mention, an embarrassment to women everywhere. So set a standard of professionalism from the get-go. You want to be taken seriously. Be confident, polished and knowledgeable. And if you strike out at your interview? No, it doesn’t mean you’re hideous. Try to boost your résumé and try somewhere else. We’re all beautiful in our own way, so just let it shine in a new way at your next interview. Someone who hires based on looks isn’t worth your time.

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