Every day before work, women shave, shampoo, condition, exfoliate, moisturize, cover-up, tone, powder, brush, style, spray, whiten, clip, paint, smooth, enhance, conceal, deodorize and pluck (did we miss anything?). In fact women spend an average of 27 minutes a day getting ready for work, use somewhere around 16 unique products on their bodies and spend thousands of dollars on clothes and shoes.
Why do we do this? Some women use clothes, hair and makeup as a form of self expression, which is great! But many of us spend time on appearances in order to protect ourselves, fit into the mold and be “acceptable.” Remember what the patriarchy told you: ladies need to look the part in order to be successful.
The truth of the matter is that a woman’s appearance can impact her income, status, and how others perceive her at work.
According to Leah D. Sheppard, an assistant professor at Washington State University who conducted a variety of experiments testing others’ perception of attractive women, found that “beautiful women were perceived to be less truthful, less trustworthy as leaders, and more deserving of termination than their ordinary-looking female counterparts.”
On another note, a seminal study conducted by NYU sociologist Dalton Conley and NYU graduate student Rebecca Glauber found that women’s weight gain results in a decrease in both their income level and job prestige. By contrast, men experience no such negative effects.
According to a landmark study from Cornell University, white women who put on an additional 64 pounds, experienced a 9% drop in wages. And according to a 2007 paper from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a statistically significant “wage penalty” for overweight and obese white women. (“Previous studies have shown that white women are the only race-gender group for which weight has a statistically significant effect on wages,” according to the paper.) The obese take a bigger hit, with a wage loss of 12%.
And as if that isn’t enough, a more recent study by researchers at Harvard University, Boston University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found makeup was found to increase people’s perceptions of a woman’s likeability and trustworthiness as well.
And finally, although there is no correlation between height and effectiveness or intelligence, a woman who is 5 feet 7 inches tall–well above the national female average of 5 feet, 3.5 inches–will make $5,250 more over the course of a year than a female co-worker standing 5 feet 2 inches.
So what to do about it?
- Be aware of your bias
- Create a “work uniform” so you don’t have to spend so much time and money on outfits
- Stop commenting on women’s appearances. No more, “How are you feeling?” “You look tired!”
- According to Tracy Spicer:
- Take note of the number of minutes your personal grooming eats up over a day a week and month
- Think about all the other things you could be doing
- Decide what you can reduce or live without
- Anonymous recruitment practices
- Celebrate women of all shapes and sizes
And of course, the good reads: