Too Pretty for The Boys’ Club?

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A recent study published in The Journal of Social Psychology found that women who are considered to be attractive are often not considered for traditionally masculine jobs.

The survey, which asked participants to rank an applicant’s ability to perform a specific job based on pictures alone, found that while attractive women had an advantage in jobs perceived as “feminine,” such as secretarial positions, they were seen as less suitable for jobs such as prison guard, tow-truck driver, mechanical engineer and director of security.

In a statement, lead researcher Stefanie Johnson, an assistant professor of management at the University of Colorado, said, “In these professions, being attractive was highly detrimental to women. In every other kind of job, attractive women were preferred. This wasn’t the case with men, which shows that there is still a double standard when it comes to gender.”

The report also stated, “We found that attractiveness is beneficial for men and women applying for most jobs, in terms of ratings of employment suitability. However, attractiveness was more beneficial for women applying for feminine sex-typed jobs than masculine sex-typed jobs.”

The new study follows other recent reports on appearance and the workplace, including one that suggested that women who dressed “provocatively” felt more productive at work.

Another, conducted by Newsweek, found that among nine employee characteristics, hiring managers ranked “looks” as the third most important trait. Newsweek also reported that 57 percent of the 202 hiring managers surveyed thought that unattractive candidates typically have a tougher time landing a job, even if they are well-qualified for the position.

What do you think about all of this so-called “beauty bias”? Let us know in the comments section.

For more on the role looks play at work, check out:

Provocative=Productive, New Survey Says

Professional, Not Provocative, Equals Productive, Say Employers

Nip/Tuck: Baby Boomers

  1. I think that there are some fundamental issues being ignored by this study. Why the emphasis on “Male Dominated” fields/jobs? Probably because they tend to be the highest paying and most respected/sought after. A very manly man might be at a disadvantage applying for a very feminine-associated role, but why are most of the “good” jobs gender-associated at all? Physical capabilities can be a factor, and while it’s true that there are valid generalizations about gender and personality types and capabilities, I think we should all aspire to be “gender-blind”, and view the characteristics of the individual, without assumptions based on gender, or any other innate characteristics. Assumptions are the enemy. Evaluate each candidate with as few assumptions as you can. It’s more work for the hiring party, but more fair for everyone, and the hiring manager may be missing the perfect candidate based on a wrong assumption about someone who doesn’t fit the stereotype. I know…real world blah blah…but let’s aspire, shall we?

    • Yeah, that’s a nice thought, except jobs were biased towards better looking men too. I think its a biological imperative in general to choose the more physically attractive candidate. It would be nice though if we weeded through candidates for a job based on skill sets, and then either did a blind interview or a one month on the job trial period to see who was the best suited candidate. Or simply first come, first serve, once the resume’s been checked.

      The other problem is that less than ideal beauty causes one to be passed over a lot, which in turn lowers self esteem, which in turn can cause one to underachieve or develop bad habits, which reinforces the social stigma of non-beauty.

      It’s an ugly world out there where the beautiful win, but I don’t think there’s really any way to get rid of it completely, rather we can only do our best to safeguard against it.

      • I agree with every word. We cant stop it, but we can try to safeguard ourselves. I personally have never had the problem, but own a couple buisnesses. And when its tie to hire, I do look past looks, but pay close attention to the hyigene. Where we live and what we do for a living that tells alot about a person. You cant have someone who didnt have the common sense to bathe that morning serving food or preparing it. Looks I dont care what tey look like as long as they get the job doneand are clean. If only everyone hired like that, the world would be a cleaner place!

      • I think there are biological influences on how we all behave that are so complex that many are yet to be discovered. Yet as a blond blue eyed female who has been told that I am “built like a brick shithouse”(?) I must say that working as a jet mechanic in the Navy was very difficult. The more masculine looking women seemed to just blend in better with the men than I think I did. I know for a fact that I had the highest test score of any of the others as I later worked in the office and had access to this information. I was, in my opinion, given attention and criticism that the ugly girls were not. Honestly it seemed that my presence disturbed the majority of the males on many levels even they couldn’t explain it. I also think some lesser attractive women with low self esteem also gang up on the beautiful women with a nasty mob mentality that I’ve never observed in men. I think beautiful women often get a lot of attention but in reality and in the long run they can be hated by other women and lusted after by men leaving them in a lonely place.

  2. Dear Kaitlin:
    I just wanted to comment on your “10 Hiring Manager Deal Breakers” piece of advice (posted on the MSN page). The feel I get from reading the piece is that, in order to qualify for a job (nowadays) you needed to start at the womb. To make sure all your life actions are meticulously planned because OH-GOD “liers need not apply”.

    What about the Nepotism? I know countless, what am I saying, legions of people who get in through the backdoor. Through good old Nepotism, faked degrees, resumes filled with lies, lies, and facebook accounts posting very compromising photos (where they pretend (pretend) to be drunk and naked).

    So Deal-Breakers seems to be an unfair strategy to those of us doing the right thing, going through the filtering process. I mean what if you have “sleepy eye”? One of the managers you quoted, may take “sleepy eye” as a sign of arrogance and “boom” you’re disqualified.

    Never the less, some of the issues you address such as: being well articulated, typo-free, dress-code and having social networks nudity free, are very important… The inequality that bothers many of us looking to land that perfect job, starts when “connected people” get the jobs because they have a “friend, brother, sis” inside.

    All in all a great piece Kaitlin!

  3. Being exposed to the creative industry on a daily basis I noticed an interesting trend for more beautiful women to side towards more creative design roles where as the more confident and dare I say it, less good looking ladies to feature more in the business link-up stage of the creative process.

    Now if I look closely there’s no difference in genes and how they all ‘can’ look, but the creative design types dress very differently and carry themselves in a very different way from the more business orientated female workers.

    I suspect those this is a facet of their personality and that in reality they all look the same underneath the presentation layer – sorry, couldn’t miss the pun :P

    • This is an interesting point. I am a creative type and I prefer sensual, feminine looks overall to a boyish or preppy look. After working in salons/spas for ten years so much of how we look has to do with hygiene, diet, maintenance, and money especially as we get older.

  4. This really isn’t surprising when you look at the jobs they listed. I mean prison guard, tow-truck driver, mechanical engineer and director of security?
    If I saw a picture of a girl with her hair done wearing cute little heels vs. a man, well I would vote her less capable of being a prison guard also. It doesn’t mean its true, or that those who hire prison guards would perceive this the same way.
    By the way, this is coming from a young woman mechanical engineer i.e. one of the jobs listed up there. While I don’t think this bias is actually present while hiring for jobs (in mechanical engineering at least), it doesn’t surprise me that a survey would say this.
    Anyways, I’ve gotta agree with Just UX Jobs. Seems to me the ‘attractivness advantage’ has a lot more to do with confidence and personality than genes. Maybe not only in job hunting…I know I’m more attracted to confident men!

    • My comment’s awaiting moderation apparently, but again, I think beauty gets one ahead, which reinforces confidence, because after all, beauty has indeed gotten you so far, and that in turn creates the belief that more beautiful people are simply more confident, better people, whereas less attractive people are looked over, develop feelings of uncertainty, tend to underachieve or, perhaps, overplay their non-physical attributes (typically intelligence) which reinforces certain negative stereotypes attached to non-beauty.

      • I totally agree that pretty people feel more confident but there are many mean people that love to hate happy pretty people and desire to bring them down. I guess I am jaded after working with women in a salon environment.

      • I tend to disagree about beauty getting you ahead, maybe it does when you are a young thing, but beauty like everything else tends to fade and then you are left to your skills.

        I am a good looking mature woman, but in my younger days while job hunting I had one headhunter tell me I should sex myself up so that I could get a job faster. I totally felt that was not necessary as I wanted to rely on my experience and not my looks. I did end up with my dream job and I did not rely on my looks, just my self confidence and better yet on my experience.

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  12. I’ve been a woman in the male-dominated IT field for 17 years. (Long enough to go from ‘cute little thing’ to 40-something.) MOST times I’m taken seriously for my abilities. There are exceptions and it ticks me off to no end, but to say that ‘attractive women’ don’t play in boys’ clubs is dead wrong.

    I’ve been in server farms at 3 a.m. when the language has been unfit for sensitive ears, and was once asked, “What’s a cute little thing doing hanging out in a server farm, anyway?” Thankfully, those comments faded to white noise, and I’m more likely to use the profanity – albeit selectively.

    I should explain that my role in technology isn’t web design or sales, but the up to the elbows enterprise architecture – hard core geek. FWIW, I’m also 5’4″, 117 lbs. and don’t lack attention from the opposite sex.

  13. I was actually hired as a courier to drive a sprinter van and deliver office supplies, put my two weeks notice in at my secretarial job and the day before my last day at work, the company called me and told me they didn’t think I could do it. Now this is after an interview with about 5 guys, a month of calls from the guy who would have been my supervisor keeping me informed of everything and asking if I was still onboard. So yes, this does happen.

  14. my take…. “Attractive women” are usually slim and under 140 lbs. if you are a prison guard in a prison where your life depends on it do you want an “attractive woman” there to back you up or a big strong man/woman? as a tow truck driver, out on a repo is not a safe gig, you are “taking” something from someone and they are not happy about it. an “attractive woman” may not be able to handle a 200 lb angry brute. and as far as a director of security goes, when you see movie stars or presidents out in public, do you see a beautiful slender woman serving as their bodyguard? usually it is a big 200-300+ lb guy. The director of security is going to have an extensive background in security, military, or law enforcement and years of experience or he/she WILL NOT be taken seriously and not be a director of security. An “attractive woman” may not be typically suited for this field as there are a lot of big mean bad guys out there that are willing to do ANYTHING to get what they want. YOU might as well do a story on ” attractive women want to play in the national football league, why can’t they?” There are always exceptions to real world applications and i hope that i don’t offend any of you woman out there, however there are plenty of jobs that are not suitable for you attractivre women. IT’S TRUE.

    • Wow Jason…

      I must tell you that I was a treatment supervisor for an all boys residential treatment center. These were big boys from the inter city of of Philly. Gangbangers that had no respect for anyone. I am 5’9″ and I am considered very attractive. All it took was one kid to test me when I showed him (he was 6’2″ and a football player) and every other boy that I was trained to ‘take um down’. Believe me, when an attractive women floors you in about 1 second with 3 inch heels on…well, no man is needed for assistance:). I have done the very same to many men (some State Trooper friends of mine have laughed at me, so down they went). You obviously have no idea how restraint training works and I would love for you to see some of my tiny female counselors throw grown men around. Personally, I would have any trained person back me up…male or female. Btw…I have watched men 6’4″ hesitate for a second too long and I had to back them up. What works so well with women is that men hate to be embarrassed by any women flooring, then restraining them…lol.

    • I agree with Renee, I am a woman and can floor a man in one second – I don’t like sterotypes and can clearly see that you – Jason are sterotyping based on looks, and size – size has nothing to do with it — trust me when I say that

    • Wow, you think that an attractive woman is under 140 pounds?? What century do you live in??

      I work in a male-dominated industry, and I have had attractiveness work in my favor by getting me into the door easier, but believe me – my knowledge about my field takes over right away and is not expected. In other words, my appearance attracts attention, but my expertise takes over and forces people to look past the superficial.

      And I am 165, 5’11′, and blonde/bue eyed – thank you very much!

    • Jason, I hardly think that a woman has to be 140 or less to be attractive. What about women who are tall or muscular? There are a lot of beautiful women who are not a size 5. Our bodies weigh like mens. How many healthy looking men are 5 feet 7 inches tall and weigh 135?

  15. While there may be a double standard when it comes to gender/sex preferences in some fields, I’m a bit skeptical to see the engineering profession listed as one of them, at least to the extent suggested. On the contrary, women are almost always prefered to “just another guy”, simply to ensure diversity in a primarily male workplace.

    I would venture to guess that one reason for the skewed proportions between men and women in the listed professions is simply because women aren’t drawn to them, not becuase of sexist employers. (Which this “study” is suggesting, albeit veiled).

    Basis for my opinion? In my graduating class of 32 mechanical engineers, only three were women. That proportion was fairly accurate among all the engineering disciplines at the college I attended. At the bare minimum, a bachelors degree is required for an engineering position, and many more men choose to pursue engineering degrees than women.

  16. I will have to agree with Jason. There are some jobs for which there are necessary biases for height and weight, and since the attractive woman in America is usually light weight, she will not be suitable for the jobs listed.

    • Again, why are some naive people describing US attractive women as slim and petite???? What country do you live in?

      Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Heide Klum, Christie Brinkly…..the list goes on.

  17. apparently when women complain it’s “feminazi” when men complain it’s somehow legit. When a similar study comes out against men people like cm will be the first pounding his/her fist and crying discrimination (please cry me a river!)

    Look at it this way if your daughter was complaining about this you would be the first to jump on the bandwagon. Why do so many people discriminate against a gender when they most likely have KIDS of that gender. In this particular case, stop thinking that ALL WOMEN are golddiggers “feminazis” (BTW your daughter benefits from everything feminism has done, think about that!) waiting to screw over men, and realize that your beloved wife, daughter, sister and mother are ALL WOMEN. If all women/men have “a problem” maybe YOU are the one with the problem.

  18. Afirmative action (EEOC) is forcing the military to allow women on submarines. I’ll also mention semi-truck drivers, prison guards (for male inmates),cement delivery etc. Some jobs have more demanding physical requirements; and some jobs are hampered by potential gender conflict.

    Not many women could mount the sets of tire chains on a semi-truck when required by road conditions.

    • I was in the Navy and I think that there are natural differences in most men and women that make them better suited for certain jobs. Women are better at some things and men are usually better suited to lift heavier objects. The ordinace team required that an individual lift a great amount of weight. I think if an individual man or woman cannot lift enough weight on their end that they should not be placed into that shop. This was a problem when I served and I think the Navy needs to address it to prevent injury in other service members. At the same time there are men that are in jobs that are not as good as a woman candidate simply because the billet needs to be filled.

  19. Sorry folks but I happen to agree 100% with this article. Appearance matters, it shouldn’t but it does, for both women and men. It matters a lot in regards to opportunities and promotion in the workplace. Perhaps the more attractive people exude more confidence, who knows. I do know that sexist behavior still exists and is tolerated. This has worked in my favor in past positions and has worked against me in two others. I have landed great promotions, believing it was based on merit and credentials, only to find it had to do with a member of upper management being attracted to me. I have tolerated blatant sexual and verbal abuse in a white collar office position. I currently work with men who make it known that women belong at home, as their wives are. I have hit the glass ceiling so to speak. Men in same position make considerably more though in many cases I have more experience. Opportunities are given to men only or in rare cases, a position will be created for an extremely attractive woman. Needless to say I am tempted to walk away from years of education and experience in a male dominated field because of this. It is what it is and it is the way it is. Unfortunately we are taught that life should be fair and we should not judge by appearances, but that is just reality. If that were the case I am sure that many of us would work for better managers perhaps even have more efficient team functioning and productivity and less stress at work. I agree we should be judged, hired, promoted and valued for our knowledge, skills, and how we work with others. If I wear a great suit, show some leg and wear a v-neck instead of a crew neck to a meeting, I receive more attention and my ideas are “heard” or tolerated more so than if I wear slacks and say a crew neck sweater with nice accessories. In my office and overall corporate environment designer clothes, appearance and attractiveness rule. You can be completely incompetent but if you drive a BMW, wear Ralph Lauren, have a great sense of style, are in shape and are attractive you “fit in”.

    Oh yeah check out the article on attractiveness in the latest “Pyschology Today”.

    • I agree completely. I am 5’1, petite, long blond hair and DDs, all mine, no silicone, and to top it off southern. People are deducting points of my IQ left and right from the get go.

      I attract a lot of attention from both sexes. A lot of attention. I am friendly, outgoing, very attractive and have an IQ over 140. I’m not searching for a big word to incorporate into every sentence to prove my intelligence, I think it’s rude, pretentious and could unintentionally cause embarrassment and uncomfortableness in others I actually try to be a nice person. However, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.

      For example, a girl at the office where I worked came to me for help, which was a constant occurrence, then once I fixed her manic mess she looked at me all wide eyed and spoke to me in awe, in front of a few of my peers I might add, then she informed me that no one would believe how smart I am just by looking at me. I didn’t flinch. I merely asked her if people would think I was smarter if I was a frumpy, less attractive brunette that had an inflated sense of self worth and my dating span was at best fugacious? She looked at me and smiled and said, “I don’t know.” I think it probably took her twenty minutes and a thesaurus to figure out I had just described her. However, my coworkers that I had worked with much longer than she, knew right away.

  20. These researchers are Brilliant I tell ya, Brilliant! What a waste of tax dollars.
    Pathetic social research–guess why they call social studies the science of the obvious.

  21. I’ve seen some of this in the Civil Engineering field. As a female engineer, I recognize that part of my job is to prove that I am able to step into the “boy’s club” and to survive and thrive.

    I’ve been told often that I should have been a model instead, but that was not my career choice. Being a female in this industry means that you will be remembered, and being remembered can either be a huge detriment or an asset. I work with clients and contractors daily. I am never what they expect when we meet, but that rarely gets in the way of getting the job done well.

    The stereotype exists, and the first step to thriving in the environment is to understand that you are either reinforcing the stereotype or breaking it down.

  22. I completely understand why pretty woman in mainly masculine jobs are looked at as seldom or odd. I mean, when I imagine a woman prison gurad, I think boxy, hairy, Miss Trunchbull-y. I mean, can anyone imagine some Gisele Bundchen working in a prison? I can’t; however, attractive women still shouldn’t be olooked down upon or mistreated for simply being presentable in their appearance.

  23. I am in my sixties and still consided in very good health, however even through I have several degrees, jobs other than being a door greeter are very difficult to come by.. Employers seem to think that you have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Looks do play an important part in your job as does speech. most people think I am in my latte Forties or early Fifties. I also have a speech impenderment which most think is an accent. I have been overlooked for any type of promotion because as I have been told by several persons,( You will be retiring soon or you should retire and enjoy life.) So of us older workaholics enjoy staying busy and working instead of sitting on our postures like it seems the new generations do.

  24. I am in the construction industry and have been for approx 20 years (I am currently 44). I work in the office mostly but also go out to the field for meetings, inspections, etc. I have been told that I am an attractive female, which I agree with. I try to play my looks down at work. Dress a little more conserveative, not too much make-up, etc.

    When I was younger I didn’t realize that made a difference but mow I do. Men take me a lot more seriously if I’m not all “dolled up” for work. While looks can hender certain positions for women, overall if you how to “deal” with your looks (certain time and place), that can be overcome if you are qualified. I grew up with men all my life (3 older brothers) which helped me undrestand this concept a little sooner than most womren and facts are facts, when it comes to males and females. Common sense along with good qualifications go a long way.

  25. Its a just a fact that in America looks dictate everything…its born and bred into our society. Where else in the world is there a place like Hollywood and LA…there isn’t. Regardless of looks there are jobs that just aren’t sutabable for women…SORRY but its true. It doesn’t matter what you look like but I doubt I’ll ever see a woman throwing chain out on an oil rig ha! In any case I could careless I don’t go to work for a Gdamn fashion show and if I want to sleep with my boss or co-worker because she is attractive then its a plus on the jobsite. So I understand the notion that people want to work around beauty its just how we want things to be…in such a materialistic and beauty obssessed society…it’s in our nature…

  26. As a female civil engineer, I have been in different working environments in which attractiveness could be an asset (marginal at best, and for marketing functions rather than engineering functions) or a detriment (significant). I have also observed that women may count attractiveness against you as much or more than men.
    While I wouldn’t try to talk a woman out of a career in civil engineering if it was her absolute passion, I would never try to talk a woman into the profession. While there are numerous programs at colleges to try to persuade women to enter technical fields, the National Science Foundation has published research documenting the challenges women in these fields face, attractive or not.
    And as one collegue in public works noted, one of the best employees he ever had was a woman, until she simply got sick of putting up with the “nonsense” from her male co-workers.

    • Susan,

      Good for you for sticking with it. I was a civil engineer for several years and finally gave up on the profession because it wasn’t worth the trouble that my male co-workers were putting me through. At the time, I was young and attractive. I’m certain that things would have been different if I had looked more masculine and/or been a witch. I too, would never encourage a woman to go into this field. Maybe things will improve in another hundred years. I’m glad to know someone had the courage and strength to endure it.

  27. Any chance that this can be explains as a clash between our perceptions regarding what’s considered attractive and our percerptions about physical strength? It seems to me that “attractive women” are more often than not identified as thin, lithe indidividuals – and that physical strength often associated with muscle bulk. I would certainly consider physical strength to be a component of the job requirements for the jobs mentioned – and with nothing to go on other than appearance – would probably choose stockier candidates who would likely not be at the top of the “attractive” list. Just sayin’….

  28. My then to be wife applied for a job with GM in Mich and told the recruter she wanted to work on the assembly line and the man said you have to be kidding. He said with your looks every man in the plant would check you out. He said being a H.S. graduate I’m putting you in an office. She was put in a cubicle with an old man that smoked stinking cigars.

  29. Although there is much truth to it, aren’t the labels “feminine-sex typed jobs” and “masculine-sex typed jobs” a kind of built-in gender bias for the whole premise here?

  30. It is true most women are hired on looks unless they own the company. I also, know of some who use other favors to land their jobs. However, there are those that are Highly qualified for their positions. Men still get hired on because of abiltity and attractiveness does play a bit of a role. Looks and other favors is still a womans game when it comes to hiring.

  31. You are a disgusting idiot. Men get hired on ability, and women get hired because of looks and performing “favors” for employers? Did you read this in Penthouse or something, or are you about 14 years old?

  32. Really? How suprising. Of course if someone is more attractive they have better odds of landing a job, and some jobs in particular. Forget all the mumbo jumbo about sexism and double standards, its common sense. A 400 lb. waitress with a face only a mother could love will likely make me loose my appetite, resulting in me ordering less food or not returning to a restaraunt again. Having attractive employees promotes a good image. Image is important in business. On the same token there are some jobs where performance and hard labor matters more. I mean, you wouldn’t hire Miss America to be a brick laying mason, over a 6ft. 190lb. man would you? There are work places for everyone. A waitress, bartender, or receptionist job would best fit an attractive woman. Hard labor jobs would in most cases be better left for tougher men. So would the world please quit crying about descrimination and sexism. Its just life and how business works.

  33. It is funny to me that ppl will admit that there is a gender bias, and attractive bias, a weight bias, etc. But if we were to say a race bias ppl throw up their hands and claim it is 2010 and it doesn’t exist anymore. Something to think about…

  34. No kidding!!!!!! “Pretty people get better treatment than ‘not’ so pretty”!!! DUH!!!!!!

    Writing an article about that is as necessary as putting a line on a pack of TP saying “open here”!! Anybody that needs those kind of directions…………

    Oh, & by the way, rich people are happier than poor people! WOW! What a concept!!

    • I totally disagree. I don’t think all pretty people are happy nor do I think all rich people are happy. I worked in Aspen salons/spas for many years and I met MANY miserable women that would be considered physically attractive and wealthy. I’ve found that many of them have such superficial lives that are based only on their looks/weight and not on true bonding or love. They are dumped once they gain weight or mature and are traded in for a younger model. My friends with less money and involved in relationships based on love and not looks and money are much happier. BUT,these are people that are not “poor” but living above poverty level.



  36. Society is always in transition. Women were also once considered more eligable to be witches in Salem… Some of us are disgusted by male dominence. An architect must still be male to get a job. A man must be gay to design women’s clothes. Some of us are outcasts to society, but we can still voice our opinions here. Thank you.

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