Overweight women are less likely to be hired than their skinny rivals, according to a new study. Then if they are lucky enough to get the job, they are paid less and given more menial tasks. Sigh. Do overweight women need to diet to get hired?
According to the ever-reliable Daily Mail, researchers from two universities, one British and one Australian, asked students to look at about 100 resumes of what they were told were 12 different women. In reality, it was six women, with photos taken before and after extreme weight loss surgery.
Researchers asked the students to rank the women in order of how successful they thought they’d be. Surprise, surprise: The overweight versions of the women sunk to the bottom of the lists. Students also assigned them lower salaries and predicted lower levels of success for them.
“We found that strong obesity discrimination was displayed across all job selection criteria, such as starting salary, leadership potential, and likelihood of selecting an obese candidate for the job,” the study’s lead author explained.
The findings don’t precisely translate to American job-hunting customs in America, where most people aren’t asked to include a photo with their resumes. (This is a common practice in other parts of the world.) But when job candidates make it to an in-person interview, it seems reasonable to assume the same prejudices are in play.
And while the new study only seems to measure undergraduate perceptions — a far cry from measuring workplace behavior — it echoes previous research that finds the majority of overweight women say they have been discriminated against by coworkers and employers. Overweight workers also earn between 1% and 6% less than people of average weight, with overweight women suffering the most. According to other research women who weigh 70 pounds less than average earn about three times as much as women who 70 pounds heavier average.
Interestingly, self-esteem may be a factor, too: Another study found that obese white women suffered worse labor market outcomes than obese black women. One major difference between them: Obesity lowers the self-esteem of white women significantly more than black women.
When asked about this a few years ago, life coach Martha Beck had this advice: “Heavy people go into an interview thinking, ‘Please forgive me for being fat.’ They believe society’s condemnation of them. But during an interview there should be no apologies, baby! You are there because you are damn good at this job. Don’t let weight into your consciousness during the interview or at work.”
That’s good advice. But let’s hope employers aren’t “letting weight into their consciousnesses,” either.