Overweight Women Are Hired Less, Sexism And Fatphobia Are Alive And Well
We hate to be the bearer of bad news so close to the holiday season, but you might want to hold back on the mince pies this year as a recent study shows weight gain can seriously impact job prospects - especially in women.
The study, published last month in PLOS ONE, found that overweight women are less likely to be employed for a customer-facing job than an overweight man, proving that fat-shaming and gender discrimination begin in the recruitment process.
The experiment asked 120 participants to imagine they were recruiters on a hiring drive and decide who of the 40 applicants (all equally qualified) they would most likely hire. Among the photos of the applicants the researchers included four men and four women who were used as test dummies, showing both a photo of their IRL their and one digitally altered to look heavier.
Unsurprisingly, but totally disheartening, the results found that the women were negatively affected by having an overweight appearance - but the men were not. The study's conclusion states:
"A little weight gain for female job applicants is damaging to women’s job chances. These findings suggest quite clearly that women are at a distinct disadvantage compared to men in relation to their 'gendered physical capital'."
Because the tested faces were all white, the study doesn't explore how race comes into play in the recruitment process - but we'll go out on a limb and say, probably not that well.
Although the study was US-based, the same type of fatphobia mentality plagues the UK workplace. In a 2005 study, 93% of 2,000 HR professionals interviewed would choose someone with a "normal weight" over an obese applicant with the same experience and qualifications. Meanwhile, around a third of HR professionals believe obesity is a valid reason for not employing a person, 15% agree they would be less likely to promote an obese employee, and 10% were ok with dismissing an employee because of their size - despite it being in clear violation of employment law.
Judging somebody's "hireability" based on appearance is problematic for so many reasons, namely because the percentage of fat on your body has nothing to do with your qualifications, worth, reliability or general disposition. To make matters even more bleak, the study confirmed that women (especially those working in the service industry) are more likely to encounter weight discrimination than their male peers, even if they're not actually clinically overweight but their male peers are.
We talk a great deal about how society pigeon holes women into looking a certain way (i.e. white and thin) and as this study proves, not subscribing to these prescribed notions of beauty can have a serious and long-term effect on your career.
Society's penchant for female objectification is so embedded into our culture that the thinness ideal is yet another way women are discriminated against in the workplace. Happy days.
By Olivia Cassano, publish on 11/10/2016