You would think that we would have gotten to the point where women and men are treated equally in workplaces at least. Unfortunately, it still isn’t true. Working women find themselves dealing with unnecessary issues that their male counterparts probably won’t ever face. More women continue to join the workforce and while that is a step in the right direction, some light needs to be shed on the basis of their employment and how they advance in their careers.
There is research that shows that women who are considered attractive earn relatively more than other women. At the same time, attractive women are perceived as less capable than those who don’t care for their appearance. Tracy Sitzmann, a Management Professor at the University of Denver claims that something as simple as hair color can make a difference in how women are looked at in the office. Silicon Valley CEO, Eileen Carey, felt pressure to dye her natural blonde hair to a darker shade and put on glasses in order to be taken seriously in the tech industry.
There are always going to be stereotypes that people are going to have to deal with but at the workplace, there is an imbalance between how men and women are judged. It is highly unlikely that a man will feel the need to be change his hair color to be taken seriously by his colleagues. In her research, Professor Jaclyn Wong found that in most industries a women’s appearance can help her income in her earlier years, however as she progresses into management positions, her appearance can become a liability. In the later years of their careers, attractive women are perceived as incapable.
Wong explains in her research that there are two main aspects to what makes a woman “attractive”. The first is to with her natural features (symmetrical face, height etc) and the second aspect is to do with embellishments such as makeup, grooming, and wardrobe. In the workplace, women appear to be judged on the second aspect.
Weight-discrimination is another big factor when hiring women or promoting them to higher positions. There are many accounts of women who’ve been looked over for promotions because they don’t have that slim waist or toned legs. They’ve even been told to “dress the part” to get the promotion, just because they wear slacks instead of dresses/skirts. Although weight-discrimination isn’t just a women’s problem, women are definitely criticized for their weight more often. Employees that weigh more have to deal with stereotypes that define them as unhealthy, lazy and less intelligent than their slimmer counterparts.
Image consultant, Sylvie Di Giusto has made a career out of advising people on how to dress in the workplace. She states that the moment your appearance becomes a topic of conversation – regardless of whether you’re considered “attractive” or “unattractive”, you’re already in trouble. When the conversation becomes about the way you look, it’s a distraction from all your accomplishments. Di Giusto says that in the workplace, the way you carry yourself is essential. You need to exude confidence because then you distract people’s attention away from your appearance and bring it back to what is most important – your intellect, capabilities and your accomplishments.
As a woman, you need to consciously block out all the talk about your appearance and put all your focus on doing your work to the best of your abilities because that is what is more necessary for career advancement.
Pile up your accomplishments so high that they don’t have the chance to notice your appearance. Don’t give them a legit reason to hold you back!