Are Your Looks Hurting Your Career?

Are your looks hurting your career?

attractive woman in Public Relations

We often think that attractive people have it easier in life. Look at Heidi Klum, for example. That woman never stops smiling. Attracting a mate? Easy. Finding clothes? Easy. But getting ahead in your career? Not always.

Though many studies have shows us how looks can impact our careers and help us get promoted, new research is showing that those her with born with classically great looks may not be guaranteed career success. In fact, being super attractive may hurt your career, especially as a woman.

The Economist looked at a study by Bradley Ruffle at Ben-Gurion University and Ze’ev Shtudiner at Ariel University Center. Researchers wanted to know what happens when job applicants include photos with their resumes—a common practice in Europe. Fictional applications were sent to over 2,500 real-life employers with job openings. For each position, they sent two very similar resumes— one with a photo, one without. Subjects had previously been graded on their attractiveness by the researchers.

Looks definitely helped men get a foot in the door, but it was the opposite for women. Attractive women were less likely to get interviews, the researchers determined. What was causing this discrimination

There’s an old-fashioned belief that attractive women may not be taken as seriously as less attractive women. Last year Dorothy Pomerantz, the L.A. Bureau Chief of Forbes, asked former supermodel Kathy Ireland—who now runs a billion dollar furniture empire—if she feels she is taken less seriously because of her beauty. Ireland said that sometimes people still pull out old issues of Sports Illustrated featuring her in a bikini when she walks into a boardroom. She says she constantly has to overcome the fact that men are mentally undressing her.

The researchers referred to the “dumb-blonde hypothesis”—the suggestion that people blatantly assume beautiful women are stupid. This causes some managers to think twice about hiring women that are “too attractive.” Iconic feminist Gloria Steinem has often spoken about the fact that she was taken less seriously in her progressive work because she was beautiful and fashionable, which was atypical for outspoken feminists at the time. It has also been pointed out many times that actresses tend to only win Oscars when they completely de-glamorize themselves to the point where they are unrecognizable. Anne Hathaway had to lose 25 pounds, get a buzzcut and look like she was dying of consumption to win her Oscar (see also Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster or Nicole Kidman in The Hours).

But the study pointed out that the other reason this may be happening is that the people who tend to greenlight a candidate for an interview work in HR, and that department is predominantly staffed by women. Women may not want to hire attractive women, which is disappointing to hear if they have the right criteria for the job.

Or maybe more employers have become aware of  something called “The Halo Effect,” and are trying to move away from it.  This is when we automatically assume someone is kind and smart and talented because they are very attractive (this is exactly how Ryan Lochte got his own show on E!). A recent study found that “gorgeous” people are often less outgoing, less friendly and self-obsessed, perhaps making them not the ideal employee. Telegraph writer Stephen Bayley wrote, “there has been a conviction that beauty and goodness are somehow inextricably and permanently linked,” and that isn’t always the case.

The key to proving everyone wrong if you do feel that your looks are holding you back is to show people that being attractive and smart are not mutually exclusive. This may take time but women need to show everyone that beauty and brains are not only a winning combination but a combination that actually exists!

By: Meredith Lepore 


The Grindstone

As women move up in their careers, begin to find success and make traction in the workplace, they still need a place to go to vent their frustrations, share their amusements and learn how to survive as they move up the ladder. And that’s where TheGrindstone comes in.