Beauty brings in the bucks

7 09 2009

It is well known that a polished exterior can suggest positive things about our work ethic and convey a professional demeanour to a new boss or colleague. However in light of recent studies it has become clear the effort to look competent and confident in the office is counting for much more than just appearance, its potentially determining our pay checks.

 In a study conducted by Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas, above-average-looking people were found to earn 5 % more per hour than the people acknowledged as less than average. Hameresh attributes this difference to what he has labeled the “beauty premium.”

In a 2003 study, researchers at the University of Florida investigated how someone’s height can alter how much they earn. The study revealed two centimeters in height results in roughly $US789 more in pay each month. That means someone who is 6 feet tall can generally be expected to make $US5, 525 more each year than someone who stands at 5 feet 5 inches.

Of course we’d have to believe that capability plays a role in an attractive person’s success, and it does. But the likelihood of these statistics and what they suggest, about differing advantages according to differing levels of beauty, being a coincidence, is also hard to believe.

The question to be considered is whether this preferential treatment is consciously being committed within our society, or whether we are unaware of the influence we are letting outward appearance have on us and our decisions.  Reports of incidents like Dov Charney’s   firing of all the less attractive people in the company (American Apparel) because they were ‘’hurting his bottom line’’ clearly indicate a deliberate choice.

That being said, most of us aren’t aware of our tendency to respond more to the pretty, as Pat Elke, a Toronto-based image consultant says, “Within a tenth of a second of entering a room, people that haven’t known you before will form 10 opinions about you based on the only criteria available to them, which is your clothes, your outward appearance and your body language.”

These inevitable superficial judgments seem impossible to avoid, especially in the workplace, so next time you’re confused why others are being recognized more, it may be time to take a long look in the mirror.






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