Beauty + Brains: Overcoming Appearance Bias In The Workplace
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
BEING ATTRACTIVE ISN‘T A PART OF THE JOB DESCRIPTION, HOWEVER, A WOMAN’S PHYSICAL ATTRACTIVENESS IS USUALLY A CAREER BOOSTER EARLY ON BUT LATER ON CAN BECOME AN UNEXPECTED PITFALL.
By: Charasay Powell
“Don't Let the Pretty Face Fool You!“
Women are too often raised to believe that we have to choose between being beautiful and being smart, and thus, can never be both at the same time. Many find it difficult to process a beautiful woman with a brilliant mind and would feel much more comfortable if she would choose to be one or the other.
In a society where, unfortunately, “attractiveness” can shape a person’s quality of life, studies have found that “beauty bias”, as archaic and unfair as it sounds, is the idea that women perceived as physically attractive, are rewarded socially and a woman’s perceived attractiveness often becomes a factor in her job search and success. Sometimes this works in her favor, and other times it works against her.
Some believe that after a woman joins the “C-Suite”, above-average looks detract from the perception of her talent and drive. This may be when the rumors that she ‘“slept her way to the top” or that the Peter Principle is in full effect start to circulate. Many women in the workplace, especially those in leadership roles and in historically male-dominated industries, feel the need to downplay their appearance in order to be taken seriously.
Oddly enough, the very same looks that were a benefit early in her career could betray a woman, without warning, as she approaches the top rungs of the Corporate Ladder. This paradigm shift can be confusing and unexpected.
Appearance bias can be compounded by stereotypes such as “dumb blonde” or “fiery redhead,” as dated as these are. We may laugh at shows like Mad Men but for some ladies, they are too close to reality for comfort. Race-based fetishization only compounds matters, adding yet another unwelcome layer of discrimination. The “Me Too” Movement may not be receiving the same level of daily press as when it was fairly new to us, but it’s far from obsolete.
Fair or unfair, some women may have gained recognition because of their looks but we’re able to sustain it because of their talent. However, a sudden and significant change in the rules of the game can prove to be a challenge. While there are definite challenges and hardships linked to women’s beauty in the workplace, I still believe that women should be able to embrace and walk proudly in being fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. Women should never be made to feel like being beautiful, in all its unique forms, is a bad thing (unless you’re using it to compensate for lack of talent or other qualifications).
I challenge women to take inspiration from women like Bozoma Saint John, a businesswoman and chief marketing officer at Netflix, who embodies what it means to be beautiful, to be professional, and to excel at the same time!
Photo via Bozoma St. John
For more content for the ambitious woman subscribe now!
Charasay Powell is an insightful writer who evokes a wealth of personal and professional experience to communicate with a wide range of audiences. She is a seasoned HR professional who has worked for top global organizations, governments, and small businesses before becoming an entrepreneur in 2019.
Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn & Clubhouse @charasay