Like it or not, you are being judged by how you look, how you dress, and how you carry yourself—and, if you’re lucky, how you do your job.
We’d all like to believe that career success is strictly a result of talent, drive, and skill set. But have you ever wondered whether factors unrelated to your work performance, such as personal appearance, influence your chances for advancement?
We have—and to find answers to this compelling question, career-intelligence.com sought the opinions and advice of a number of workplace experts, as well as women themselves in various industries. Do looks affect getting hired, getting promoted, and making more money? And if so, what can you do about it? What we uncovered made for interesting reading, and could affect your life in more ways than one.
A more recent study designed and executed by researchers at Harvard University, Boston University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that women wearing more makeup were judged to be more competent than those wearing less makeup or no makeup. Makeup was found to increase people’s perceptions of a woman’s likeability and trustworthiness as well.
Despite these research implications, many are reluctant to admit that a woman’s personal appearance influences decisions around hiring and promotion, according to Steve Stroum, president of Venmark International. Stroum explains a key reason for this is that personal appearance falls into the subliminal judgment part of the brain. He likens the situation to the automotive industry placing bright red convertibles in their showrooms, only to sell white sedans. “In the same sense, a woman’s personal appearance is a hidden persuader,” says Stroum. “Nobody will admit that something as trivial will impact their decision-making process… but it does.”
Marc L. Resnick, Ph.D., professor of human factors at Bentley University College of Business, reinforces this position. “My research finds that when making decisions, people are influenced by a variety of factors that are explicitly conscious, tacitly conscious, and unconscious,” says Resnick. “So even for a hiring manager that knows of this tendency and forces him/herself to suppress it, it is still an influence.”
Read More: Doctor’s Guide to Flawless Skin
Like it or not, every day we are judged by such things. Earlier this month I read something published by Aaron Gouveia that lists seven ways your looks affect your pay. Falling short in more than one of these categories, I hope all is not lost for the frumpy, 50-something, gray-hairs who wear jeans and red sneakers to lunch meetings with old friends.
Tall people get paid more money
A 2004 study by Timothy Judge at the University of Florida found that for every inch of height, a tall worker can expect to earn an extra $789 per year. That means two equally skilled coworkers would have a pay differential of nearly $5,000 per year, simply because of a 6-inch height differential, according to the study.
Skinny are rewarded
A seminal study conducted by NYU sociologist Dalton Conley and NYU graduate student Rebecca Glauber found that women’s weight gain results in a decrease in both their income level and job prestige. By contrast, men experience no such negative effects.and raises.Obese workers (those who have a Body Mass Index of more than 30) are paid less than normal-weight coworkers at a rate of $8,666 a year for obese women, and $4,772 a year for obese men, according to a George Washington University study that cited data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 2004. And other studies indicate obese women are even more likely to be discriminated against when it comes to pay, hiring prospects etc.
Blondes get paid more
A 2010 study from the Queensland University of Technology studied 13,000 Caucasian women and found blondes earn greater than seven percent more than female employees with any other hair color. The study said the pay bump is equivalent to the boost an employee would generally see from one entire year of additional education.
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Fit-looking people paid more
According to a study in the Journal of Labor Research, workers who exercise regularly earn nine percent more on average than employees who don’t work out. The study from Cleveland State University claims people who exercise three or more times a week earn an average of $80 a week more than their slothful coworkers. Of course there is no real way to track the fitness habits of your colleagues, but it is without a doubt that those who look leaner and fitter tend to have a better chance at getting that sought after promotion. This could explain the popularity of urban cleanses that aim to kickstart the system and help to keep your body’s systems optimal, and your physique trim.
Women who wear makeup make more
Not only do people judge beauty based on how much makeup a woman is wearing, make-up adorned women also rank higher in competence and trustworthiness, according to a study funded by Procter & Gamble, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A study in the American Economic Review said women who wear make-up can earn more than 30 percent more in pay than non makeup wearing workers. The reasoning could be because a simple coat of foundation and powder on your skin can give the illusion of firmer, younger and healthier looking complexion. Sometimes, men can mistake makeup for naturally good skin. Of course, the truth is that nothing beats having flawless skin, but if you fall short in that category, then a bit of cosmetic assistance will do no harm.
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Attractive people get rewarded ‘handsomely’
A Yale University study from Daniel Hamermeshfinds employers pay a beauty premium to attractive employees. The beautiful workers earn an average of roughly five percent more, while unattractive employees can miss out on up to almost nine percent, according to the study.
Another peek behind the scenes comes from Margaret J. King, Ph.D., director of the Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, a think tank that studies human behavior, including gender and appearance issues. Kings says she hears from employers constantly that candidates don’t spend enough time thinking about how they are coming across in interviews or later, if they get the job, how appearance affects them in the workplace.
“Appearance is always a factor in primate hierarchy—how we approach others and think of them in our internal mind mapping of people and prestige,” says King.
“There are a number of human factors involved in people perception: age, gender, status, context, grooming, aesthetics, wardrobe, accessories. They all go to defining personal style and how people think they are being perceived.”
As uncomfortable as it may be, we are under the microscope every day. Our employees, our colleagues, and our customers judge us by how we look, how we dress, our table manners, our grooming, and sometimes even how we do our job.