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Mitigating Sexism in Male-Dominated Fields for Attractive Women

An attractive woman smiles in an interviewResearch 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

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  • Melanie

    October 23rd, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    So fessing up to being a beauty queen can help you nail the job but being honest that you might not be such a looker could hurt your chances? Still sounds like there are some pretty big issues there

  • rae

    October 23rd, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    It’s really kind of silly when you think about it that being too attractive can be just as detrimental to your career advancement as being deemed too unattractive. It seems like there are some real societal skews when women are still judged by what they look like on the outside- no one should ever say that they don’t understand why there are all of these hangups about women and the way we look because this is proof that it is still a bigger deal than too many people wish to admit.

  • Gloria

    October 24th, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    I hope that there will come a time for my own girls when looks don’t have to matter all that much but I don’t think that we are there yet and I don’t think that we are even close to being there. The truth is that even women want to look their best, and whether we are making things worse for ourselves in the workplace for feeling that waay i am not sure. I know that there are times I go to work looking than less than stellar and honestly those are the days when I feel a little off my game and not quite as successful as I do the days when I go in looking what I consider to be good. Those are the days when It seems that I have more confidence and the ability to tackle the hardest tasks. Kind of crazy but I think that much of the time I want to look good for me instead of looking good for someone else.

  • Gia

    October 26th, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    Couldn’t we just get over the whole looks thing alreadY? WE are talented and strong and does it make any difference what we look like if we happen to know what we are doing?

  • Jim

    October 27th, 2014 at 3:50 AM

    Sometimes it is best to acknowledge the elephant in the room instead of trying to ignore it.
    You might not think that other people will notice something like being more or less attractive than the norm, but believe me, we are human and we notice things like that.
    Whether it should or should not be the case is not the argument. The fact is that it is proven that it does make a difference in the hiring process so it could be the right thing to just go ahead and acknowledge it before letting it become an actual distraction.

  • lorena c

    October 29th, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Ladies, we just have to face the facts that it is often going to be a no win situation for us in the workplace so that means that we have to fight extra hard and work extra hard to prove that we deserve to be there. There are always going to be men and women alike who will belittle us and think that we are not good enough simply because we are women. What’s that all about? I thought that that kind of thinking should have gone away ages ago but apparently not. So I guess we have to fight a little harder to get what we want, and for me that’s OK because I like nothing more than proving someone wrong.

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