Research into sexism in hiring has repeatedly shown that women experience discrimination when they apply for what are often considered stereotypically male jobs. Among women viewed as very attractive, it’s even more difficult to get a job in construction and other historically male-dominated fields. By acknowledging the issue of physical beauty by, for example, noting that they don’t look like the traditional applicant, the study says, women may mitigate or undermine sexism.
Sexism and Beauty in Hiring
Researchers divided 355 participants into three different groups, with each group reviewing fake job applications for a construction position. The first group, consisting of undergraduate business students, reviewed four candidates, including one woman the researchers deemed either attractive or unattractive. In a third of cases, the woman acknowledged her appearance; in another third, the female applicant acknowledged her sex; and in the final third, she acknowledged neither. Researchers asked participants to rate the quality of each applicant, and raters rated the attractive woman who acknowledged her appearance higher.
A second group of undergraduate business students completed a similar process, but in this group, the female applicant was viewed as attractive and acknowledged both her sex and appearance in her application packet. Researchers asked participants to rate the applicant’s qualifications, in addition to assessing how spiteful they thought she might be. Researchers believe these questions reveal two types of sexism: hostile sexism, in which women who apply for masculine jobs are viewed as women who inappropriately violate gender norms, and benevolent sexism, which judges attractive applicants as too beautiful to do traditionally male jobs. They found that among female candidates who acknowledged their appearance, both hostile and benevolent sexism decreased, increasing the women’s likelihood of getting the job. Researchers believe that women who acknowledge their appearance are judged as less spiteful and more masculine, increasing their odds of being hired.
A final group consisted of construction workers. Researchers surveyed the group to assess their sexist attitudes and determine whether they engaged in hostile sexism, benevolent sexism, or both. Researchers then provided the group with an application packet similar to that viewed by the first two groups. In this final group, though, the attractive woman’s application was in the form of a video interview. They found that women who acknowledged their appearance were able to effectively mitigate both hostile and benevolent sexism.
How Do Less Attractive Women Experience Discrimination in Hiring?
While the study offers attractive women advice that may help them get a job, it also uncovered more bad news for women viewed as unattractive. Researchers also tested how acknowledging their appearance affected hiring decisions for unattractive women. Not only did the acknowledgment not help; it actually decreased the women’s chances of getting the job.
Acknowledging appearance reduces bias when beauties apply for masculine jobs, says CU-led study. (2014, October 18). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/283909.php
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