Study finds beautiful women face discrimination in certain jobs

Aug 06, 2010

While many see no downside to being beautiful, a professor at the University of Colorado Denver Business School says attractive women face discrimination when it comes to landing certain kinds of jobs.

In a study released in the May/June Journal of , Stefanie Johnson, assistant professor of management at UC Denver Business School, found that beauty has an ugly side, at least for women.

Attractive women were discriminated against when applying for jobs considered "masculine" and for which appearance was not seen as important to the job. Such positions included job titles like manager of research and development, director of finance, mechanical engineer and construction supervisor.

"In these professions being attractive was highly detrimental to women," said Johnson. "In every other kind of job, attractive women were preferred. This wasn't the case with men which shows that there is still a double standard when it comes to gender."

The study, co-authored by Robert Dipboye, professor of psychology at the University of Central Florida, Kenneth Podratz, an organizational development manager at UPS and Ellie Gibbons, research assistant at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, found that attractive men suffered no similar discrimination and were always at an advantage.

According to Johnson, beautiful people still enjoy a significant edge. They tend to get higher salaries, better performance evaluations, higher levels of admission to college, better voter ratings when running for public office and more favorable judgments in trials.

A recent Newsweek survey of 202 hiring managers and 964 members of the public concluded that looks matter in every aspect of the workplace and they mattered more for women. When asked to rate nine character attributes on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the most important, looks ranked third, above education and sense of humor, the magazine reported.

But in one narrow aspect of life, beauty can be a hindrance, something researchers have called the "beauty is beastly" effect.

"In two studies, we found that attractiveness is beneficial for men and women applying for most jobs, in terms of ratings of employment suitability," according to the study. "However, attractiveness was more beneficial for women applying for feminine sex-typed jobs than masculine sex-typed jobs."

In one experiment, participants were given a list of jobs and photos of applicants and told to sort them according to their suitability for the job. They had a stack of 55 male and 55 female photos.

In job categories like director of security, hardware salesperson, prison guard and tow truck driver, attractive women were overlooked. In each of these jobs appearance was perceived to be unimportant. tended to be sorted into positions like receptionist or secretary.

"One could argue that, under certain conditions, physical appearance may be a legitimate basis for hiring," Johnson said. "In involving face-to-face client contact, such as sales, more physically attractive applicants could conceivably perform better than those who are less attractive. However it is important that if physical attractiveness is weighed equally for men and women to avoid against women."

The study chided those who let stereotypes influence hiring decisions. Given the importance of hiring and the consequences of making a wrong choice, the authors said, managers need to rely more on information from the individual rather than on stereotypes about physical appearance.

Explore further: Precarious work schedules common among younger workers

Provided by University of Colorado Denver

2.6 /5 (18 votes)

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User comments : 17

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Kedas
5 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2010
"In job categories like director of security, hardware salesperson, prison guard and tow truck driver, attractive women were overlooked. In each of these jobs appearance was perceived to be unimportant"

Have you ever seen a very attractive women in a tow truck?
If a women makes herself very attractive it is not their choice to sit somewhere where people don't see them.

Beauty of a women is still very important in this world so don't expect people to ignore that fact when they make a choice.

ontheinternets
5 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2010
"In two studies, we found that attractiveness is beneficial for men and women applying for most jobs, in terms of ratings of employment suitability," ..

"In one experiment, participants were given a list of jobs and photos of applicants and told to sort them according to their suitability for the job. They had a stack of 55 male and 55 female photos."

The conclusion does not follow from this experiment. I wonder if the other experiment was any better. This article is fluff :(
Rick_Niemeyer
5 / 5 (2) Aug 06, 2010
Did they control for the gender of the interviewer? I would be interested in knowing if female bosses were just as likely to bias against beautiful women as male bosses.
OliverJ
1.7 / 5 (6) Aug 06, 2010
Kedas - A woman can work in a location where she is not seen and will still makes the same effort with her looks. To say a woman makes herself look attractive does not mean she wants to be on display! BTW, Beauty is just an opinion after all and for you to say that "beauty of a women is still very important in this world" is complete rubbish and as far as making choices goes...well i say man up and get with the real world!

OliverJ
Aug 06, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Donutz
5 / 5 (7) Aug 06, 2010
I may have misread, or the article may have left out some details, but does it not say that they gave the subjects ONLY pictures of people and asked them to sort by suitability? Well WHAT THE F**K DO YOU EXPECT? You give people only appearance to sort on, and they'll sort by appearance. Geez. Want to make the study relevant, include a (possibly fictional) resume with each picture. Then analyze any discrepency between paper suitability and sorted order based on appearance. Mix up the resumes and pictures with different test groups. THAT will get you some relevant results.

ODesign
3 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2010
Men are less often judged by attractiveness. try loading some men with status symbols such as an expensive car in the background or expensive suits vs men with low status symbols such as jeans and a t-shirt with a beat up truck in the background.

Also, does this mean the women are given preferential consideration in jobs where beauty does matter. can an Unattractive male secretary expect to get paid equally compared to female secretaries?
brianweymes
5 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2010
Donutz is right. They should have included a short resume with each picture, or at least some synonyms that described the person. In the real world when applying for a job, people are never presented with just an applicant's picture. But the experiment has worth because it does show that when people have little else to go on, they will judge your suitability for a job based on looks. So it supports the concept. A more thorough followup study is in order.
mysticfree
not rated yet Aug 06, 2010
Another job that discriminate against attractive women: modeling for the 'before' photo ...
ArtflDgr
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2010
And i find in general ugly men are discriminated across pretty much all situations... oh well guess we arent all equal... (i also notice that unlike ugly men, a pretty woman can marry well, and not work as a means to escape the oppression. if she finds her husband oppressive, then divorce and still not work)

this has been a tongue firmly in cheek message...
gwrede
1 / 5 (3) Aug 06, 2010
Maybe, just maybe, the hirerers aren't asshole discriminator swine. Maybe it's simply about some places just becoming a riot or a circus, if the central person is not an old and ugly beer-belly redneck with an attitude.

Imagine the town scrap yard run by a girl you'd normally find in a tire or V-8 calendar centerfold. How about the night watchman at the local garbage dump being the current Miss World.

Who's fault would it be if they get raped once a week????

G'dd'm'it, has the world lost all of its mind? Men behave in certain predictable ways. Now, threatening to jail them all isn't going to eradicate all of this behavior. But no, in the name of Equality (or more specifically, feminist butches want to see ABSOLUTELY NO jobs where a man would be preferred, even if it kills you), an absolute equality of genders is the goal. "Hell, there's no difference between women and men, except for a piece of meat between the legs."

Right. Truly, right!
Sigh.
Theresa_Le
5 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2010
Hopefully, prospective employers screening female applicants will look at the individual as a whole, despite this study. Looks can never be a true indicator of whether a person will excel in the job, and we know that, so why let good looks or bad looks be the determining factor? It is too bad that there is a good chance that battling against stereotypes will be a perpetual struggle, especially in this economic down time.

http://www.ishop4beauty.com
Djincs
1 / 5 (1) Aug 07, 2010
This will be true if the boss is a women , we know how much wimen like more beautiful wimen, and just to be honest it is really hard to say no to a really attractive women, no matter what she asks you for.....
Blicker
not rated yet Aug 07, 2010
"fluff" is right. Vague and ambiguous but was it in the original study or crept in during media distribution? Which way to interpret this: "In these professions being attractive was highly detrimental to women," said Johnson. "In every other kind of job, attractive women were preferred." Does that mean attractive women were preferred over men as well? Or does it mean where there were only say 3 women candidates the attractive one was preferred? Why is it that we immediately see the flaws in what we are reading but those producing and providing the information do not?
Jigga
1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 07, 2010
The job, which I'll never get...

http://www.life.c.../3165429
Sneebli
5 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2010
The study also finds that Polar bear's felt discriminated against because they weren't getting jobs in the desert while the camels were, the same was happening in the Arctic for the camels. How can we stop this horrible discrimination in the animal kingdom?
COCO
1 / 5 (1) Aug 09, 2010
Beautiful girls/women remain too high maintenance for me - and like George Castandza (sp? from Seinfeld) I - as a practicing male - cannot even remember my name in the prescence of a real looker - do not pity them!! HAHAHAAAAAAAAaaaaa
CarolinaScotsman
not rated yet Aug 09, 2010
What this shows more than a gender/looks bias is an ugly vs looks bias. If one is ugly, it doesn't matter what gender you are, you're always at a disadvantage. Looks have nothing to do with competance, but everything to do with preferance.