Do Beauty Stereotypes Backfire For Women In The Workplace?

News & Views | Gerren Keith Gaynor | 03/23/2015 | 04:30 PM EDT

Being attractive may get you through the door, but could backfire in the office

To be clear, there are advantages that come with being “pretty.”

Falling on the affirmative side of physical attractiveness has it perks, particularly when it helps you land the job. While one would hope that they’re hired because of what’s in their brain and on their resume, one would be naive to think that hiring managers don’t sometimes allow the superficial to influence their decision.

Data from the website, Shiftgig, found that the most attractive women score the most job interviews.

But once you get your foot through the door, does it still work in your favor?


Turns out, there are some pitfalls for being pretty in the workspace. For the stereotypically attractive woman, the workspace can be a cumbersome one considering what she’s often up against. Particularly in environments where men and testosterone run the show, “pretty” women are objectified and relegated by how they look rather than how they perform the job.

This is disconcerting when you think about it. In addition to women making only 77 cents on every dollar earned by men, they also succumb to sexist stereotypes about their ability to execute on the job.

A study from the Journal of Social Psychology revealed that two areas in particular exhibit where attractive women get the most discrimination and pushback: when their job title is considered more “manly” and when she is working with a married man.

Positions like director of finance and mechanical engineer are viewed as more testosterone-infused and therefore result in women holding said positions as least capable for the job. As for women on the job working with married men, that’s more an issue harbored by the man’s spouse. Jealous wives are least likely to trust their men around a woman deemed attractive.

Understandable? Possibly. Fair? Absolutely not.

And it’s not just areas of gender-role cliches and suspicion of adultery where beauty poses as a big problem for women in the workspace. No matter what position they hold, they likely to be heard less because assumptions are made about what they can actually offer aside from their looks.

But even in knowing and understanding some of the office plights that plague beautiful women, it’s important not to let it throw you off your game. While your beauty can be both an advantage and disadvantage to women considered to be attractive, it’s imperative that women not let those markers influence their work ethic and value to the job. We can only hope that allies for women equality in the workforce will join the fight against work discrimination, no matter how understated it may be.

(Photo: Frank and Helena/cultura/Corbis)

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