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Beauty Bias Can Blemish (or Boost) Your Career

Beauty Bias: The Ugly Truth

Right or wrong, the reality is that when you put your best face forward, it positively impacts your bottom line. While being too pretty backfires and results in the “bimbo effect,” research shows that 84% of managers operate under beauty bias. Most perceive younger-looking workers as “more tech-savvy, cheaper, and nicer on the eyes,” according to a Newsweek report. Taking care of your appearance and looking your best does not just affect how you feel about yourself; it also affects how others perceive you, and ultimately, how much money you make.

It may seem like an archaic, unenlightened mindset, but studies show that beauty bias is very real. There is a “sweet spot” for just how pretty you should be to obtain the jobs you want and the respect you deserve from your bosses and coworkers. The reference to “pretty” doesn’t apply only to women.

Taking care of your appearance and looking your best does not just affect how you feel about yourself; it also affects how others perceive you, and ultimately, how much money you make.

While the sweet spot for men is a bit more forgiving, a good-looking man will earn, on average, 5% more than his less attractive counterpart. The difference in female workers is closer to 4%, Newsweek reported.

Furthermore, the publication surveyed more than 200 corporate hiring managers from the level of senior vice-president to human resource staff. It found that, while no one wants to admit it, beauty bias is alive and well- looking good plays a role in everything from corporate politics to promotions. Focusing on your outward appearance is no longer something that can be regarded as shallow or vain; it plays a large role in your financial future.

Being Beautiful isn’t as Easy as Many Assume

The relationship between beauty and employment is a complex one. While someone trying to gain an entry-level position must be viewed as attractive, in upper-level male-dominated positions, attractive women are viewed as “too feminine, less intelligent, and ultimately less competent” Newsweek cited.

This difference cannot be chalked up to sour grapes by the men who are facing skilled female competition, because those descriptions are given by both their male and female peers. Many attractive women in this situation will downplay their features to avoid the beauty bias known as the “bimbo effect.”

Physical Appearance Ranks in the Top 3 of Employee Attributes

Your entire life, you have been told that if you work hard and do your best, you will succeed. Well, what your parents left out was that some of that hard work should focus on a nutritious diet, exercise, proper rest and beauty routines. In the aforementioned Newsweek survey, hiring managers were directed to rank the importance of employee attributes.

The results reflect what many already suspect:

  1. Experience
  2. Confidence
  3. Looks
  4. Education

The data clearly show what recruiters have been saying for a long time: “It is better to be average and good-looking, than it is to be brilliant and unattractive.”

Heading out for a Nip/Tuck? Not So Fast!

What are employees to do? Quit school and get a breast augmentation or a nose job? Resign themselves to low-level positions because they just aren’t genetically blessed? No! We live in a time of double standards — where men can be gray and distinguished, while women must strive to meet a ridiculously unattainable standard of beauty set by airbrushed models in magazines. It is unfortunate, but the growing pressure of beauty bias is a reality of our time.

It is unfortunate, but the growing pressure of beauty bias is a reality of our time.

If your level of attractiveness is affecting your confidence, there are simple steps you can and should take to build your self-esteem and to help your inner beauty be reflected in your outward appearance. Take care of yourself with proper nutrition and exercise so you can maintain a healthy BMI. Get a proper amount of sleep.

You may also be interested in “The Relationship Between Sleep and Finances is Stronger than You Thought”

Go to a hair salon (yes men, you, too) and get an image consultation with a stylist you respect and trust. The right cut and color can take years off your face, soften skin tones and draw attention to your best features. Invest in proper skincare to improve skin texture and tone, reduce acne and irritation, and reverse signs of aging. Always wear sunscreen — I mean it, always!

Invest in Yourself- Beauty is as Beauty Does

Head to your local department store and spend time talking with a personal shopper. In most department stores the service is free and they can guide you on how best to fit your body type and personal style, and how to dress for the proper occasion. Avoid trendy, expensive pieces, but get a few classics and lots of information on how to make the best choices in the future.

This is not the time to be shy. Ask for help. That’s what they are there for! If you build a relationship with your personal shopper, he or she will call you when the store is having a sale! Remember, a proper-fitting, moderately priced outfit looks infinitely better than an expensive, ill-fitting garment, so make sure it fits, or get it tailored.

Avoid trendy, expensive pieces, but get a few classics and lots of information on how to make the best choices in the future.

Last but not least, ladies, even if you are a minimalist, the fact is that wearing some makeup looks polished and professional. Go to the makeup counter at your local department store (or your favorite salon) and look at the women working there. Pick one that looks similar to the style you are looking for and ask for help.

Beauty Bias May Be Real, but a Little Time and Effort Goes a Long Way

While the intellectual side of you may want to rebel against the relationship between beauty and income, the practical side of you should win the argument and accept that you’re not going to change the beauty bias in the world; and making this moderate investment of time and resources into your appearance will open doors and pay dividends at your workplace.

About Mercedes Holmen

Mercedes is a business owner and Executive Consultant with Rodan and Fields. In addition, she works in the field of behavior analysis for children with autism and their families, specializing in preschool aged children. She also has her Masters in Science from University of California at Davis.

View all articles by Mercedes »

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