Discrimination at work is mostly based on appearance. Sadly, this issue is no news for us. For women, it’s even more challenging, because appearance expectations from women are higher.
What should be required from an employee? A good set of skills? Motivation? Professionalism? Why, yes, of course. But, here’s the catch. Good looks are required too.
This is when the job market stereotypes step in. These are noticeably exhibited in movies. The secretary: attractive, has a slim figure, preferably blonde hair, an object of sexual harassment.
The boss: bitchy, usually single, wears neutrals, usually brunette, wears glasses, flips 180 degrees at the end of the movie and becomes attractive.
Unfortunately, discrimination at work in real life is somewhat based on such fictional characters. Instead of evaluating the candidate based on their work experience, their appearances become an obstacle.
“Don’t judge a book by its cover”, they say. What do they do? The exact opposite!
What are the main job market stereotypes when it comes to discrimination at work?
In the first place, good looks are required.
When hiring assistants, secretaries, or receptionists, employers have a specific person in mind. Since the jobs mentioned are typically feminine, appearance is taken into consideration.
First and foremost, the candidate must be attractive. Women are expected to look a certain way when applying for such jobs. If they do not fit the requirements of the appearance, they are ruled out.
Their work experience is ignored instead of being the main reason to be taken into consideration for the job. Slightly unattractive? Next, please! After evaluating the figure, the way the woman is dressed is what’s evaluated.
A slight hint of cleavage would make the other employees content. Maybe miniskirts are considered unprofessional (just like the way they select employees), but a skirt that flaunts a woman’s hips and thighs is always a sight to see.
Another thing that is observed is hair. Naturally, curly hair is usually deemed as messy and unprofessional, but exceptions can be made if the woman looks attractive with curly hair texture. Slightly curly, wavy or straight hair is passable since it makes it appear as if the woman made an effort to look good.
Other job market stereotypes include being too attractive. Discrimination at work can go both ways. Good looks aren’t required this time around. In fact, they are considered a detriment.
Discrimination at work can also work in the opposite way. If good looks are required for certain jobs, you can be too beautiful to apply for others. More job market stereotypes arise in such situations when being attractive is considered a disadvantage for women.
Professions that are mostly dominated by men such as mechanical and electrical engineers, surgeons, construction supervisors are identified with manly traits.
Attractive women can face discrimination at work in cases such as these. They can be considered too frail, too delicate, and too girly for such jobs.
So, what do women have to do to break the job market stereotypes? You’re either too beautiful or not pretty enough. The issue still exists and remains stable.
Why are skills, experience, and professionalism overlooked by employers? Why are good looks required instead of diligence and hard work? Why do job market stereotypes establish discrimination at work?
One research shows that employers find attractive people more friendly, proficient, charming and brilliant rather than less attractive people. According to the research, they can use their good looks to persuade people since attractiveness generates dominance, and that attractive people leave better first impressions.
Sexual harassment is another component when it comes to selecting employees. Although many women face sexual harassment frequently at work, there are cases (not as often as the previous) when employers are afraid of facing a sexual harassment lawsuit because of the number of man employees at the workplace.
This means that even if the employer understands the situation, he’d rather not hire an attractive woman instead of firing harassers. Weight and height used to be major factors when hiring a woman.
Although these specific elements are legally prohibited to be taken into account, employers are still capable of bending the law. They can state that “she simply wasn’t a qualified candidate.”
Author of Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom, Catherine Hakim recommends women to use their sexuality to get higher positions at work.
Experts, researchers, and conducted surveys have shown that attractive people have better chances getting higher evaluations and salaries, i.e., the prettier you are, the higher chances of promotions you get.
Discrimination at work is also expressed through clothes. When a certain employee is restricted from wearing an item of clothing, whereas other employees are free to wear whatever they want.
A notorious example of this case is when Debrahlee Lorenzana sued Citibank. Her employer had told her to not wear the same clothes as other women in the same office.
Lorenzana had stated that she hadn’t broken Citibank’s dress code and that other female employees had worn clothes that were more revealing than that of hers.
Citibank managers’ response was that her outfit was “distracting” and she is required to wear something to conceal her figure. When Lorenzana complained about the treatment she received from her employers, she was fired.
According to statistics, developed societies also face discrimination at work. Job market stereotypes are widespread globally.
Humans are infatuated with good looks. An experiment was conducted by Italian researchers: 10.000 resumes were disseminated with pictures of people of different appearances attached to them. 54% of the callbacks were for attractive women.
The experiment showed that more than half of the women have better chances of getting callbacks if they are considered attractive.
Another research from Cornell University claimed that “when white females put on an additional 64 pounds, her wages drop 9%.”
A research conducted by Daniel Hamermesh showed that the top one-third of attractive females make about 10% more annually than those in the bottom sixth of the genetic pool.
The age of women also plays a role in discrimination at work. Research conducted by American Society of Plastic Surgeons showed that 73% of women sense that having an appearance that makes you look somewhat younger plays a role in landing jobs and promotions.
Job market stereotypes handicap women from implementing their knowledge and abilities in workplaces. Discrimination at work still continues to be an issue.
Either nobody wants to hire an average looking woman because she might fail to keep up with the atmosphere, or nobody wants to hire a drop dead gorgeous woman because she might be all looks and no brain.
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