Well Being

Don’t Hire Me ‘Cause I’m Beautiful: New Study Says Attractive Women Are Overlooked For Jobs

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Remember when we were told that attractive people tend to achieve greater success in the workplace than the average-looking employee? I never really bought that assessment. As someone who doesn't exactly have a problem getting dates, I always found the pleasing attention my looks garnered were a hindrance when it came to gaining respect amongst my colleagues. Now, according to a new study published by the Royal Economic Society, my instincts were pretty spot-on.

In the study, Professor Cary Cooper suggests that female jealousy and competition play a large role when women are interviewing women, and that CVs which had attractive headshots attached to them received merely 25% of favorable responses. Interestingly enough, the study also suggests that CVs containing attractive head shots of men were far more likely to be invited for an interview.

I've never attached a photo to my CV, but now that employers can search for prospective candidates online, it's easy for them to find out what I look like (amongst other things) in a matter of seconds.

My inner feminist hates to admit it, but female jealousy is a reality that even I am guilty of. I get angry when I catch myself having a catty moment, especially since I've been on the receiving end of female jealousy more than once. When it comes to the workplace, these competitive instincts women display can be disastrous. In my own experience, no matter how conservatively I dress, I will be pulled aside and told that my clothes are distracting colleagues or clients.

Years ago, when I was a receptionist at a big multi-national corporation, I was clearing away the conference room after a luncheon when my black shirt rode up somewhat to reveal my lower back. It was momentary and seeing as how I had my hands full of trays and empty glasses, you would think there would have been some understanding or lenience from my employers. You would think, but you'd be wrong. My supervisor claimed that a client complained about my attire, and instead of coming to me to sort the matter out, she went straight to the top to file a report. Ridiculousness at its best.

At that same office, a rowdy client called the office through the switchboard and kept me chatting for sometime in a harmless but jovial fashion. As I laughed obligingly at his funny chit-chat, a female coworker passed by and immediately reported to my supervisor that I was making personal phone calls during office hours, tying up the switchboard.

You may be reading this and thinking “Oh poor little pretty girl, your life is soooo hard,” and I wouldn't blame you for rolling your eyes. However there seems to be a disconnect in the perception between women's appearance and intellect that men don't suffer through: women are either viewed as pretty but dumb, or smart but ugly. It's hardly surprising to many when a brawny man also has brains, but the shock-and-awe hits when a pretty girl begins a conversation about string-theory or the political situation in Chechnya.

Therein lies a problem I have endured in my previous positions: because my appearance was considered pleasing, it was assumed (subconsciously or otherwise) that I lacked work ethic and commitment, or that I was a party-girl sent to disrupt the calm, conservative veneer of the workplace. I've had to fend off advances from male co-workers, which at some point in their lives, the majority of women will have to do. However, when it's women marginalizing women, the cut and sting is deeper.

The solution is not to show up to interviews with halitosis and greasy hair. Nor is it to avoid applying for positions under women supervisors. In addition to women consciously keeping their competitive instincts in check, there needs to be a collective re-programming in the perception of attractive employees. No matter how perfect the smile, or how bodacious the body, there is a competent and capable worker behind the pretty layers, willing to show you what they're made of.

Ladies, it's time to stand up and be honest with ourselves. Do you unfairly judge your female colleagues? The next time you catch yourself rolling your eyes at the boss's pretty secretary, stop. Because it's entirely possible that she's beautiful AND a fantastic employee who does her job credibly.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

 

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