Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Put Your Best Face Forward - Literally

Have you ever rolled out of bed in the morning and headed off to work without showering, styling your hair or choosing a great outfit? Perhaps you might want to think twice! According to the article “Looks Matter in the Workplace” by Laura Morscsh on cnn.com, “good looks can have a real impact on workers’ bank accounts”. In fact, good-looking people can earn on average 5% more in hourly wages than their average-looking coworkers. In turn, average-looking coworkers can earn up to 9% more in hourly wages than the plainest-looking coworkers. In addition to these surprising statistics, according to the Journal of Labor Economics, plain-looking employees receive fewer promotions to their attractive counterparts. Seem fair? Seem legal?

This phenomenon may also be found in a university setting. The article also states that college students give higher evaluation scores to better-looking professors. Do you feel this is true? Has the appearance of a professor ever effected the way you have evaluated his or her teaching ability?

Since discrimination based on looks is not illegal, except in a few jurisdictions, promotion based on physical appearance is allowed. Does this seem like an acceptable practice to you? Will this change the way you prepare for potential interviews or your daily work routine? Job applicants in Europe are actually required to submit photos with their resume. My two friends from Germany informed me that everyone has professional photographs taken, like senior pictures, so that they are able to put their best face forward to employers. I am just curious on your thoughts about this issue. Does this disgust you? Does it make sense? Put yourself in the employer’s shoes: Is this something you might unknowingly do?



Blogger Frekinawesome said...

I find this topic particularly intriguing. I do think it is unfair that natural beauty can play a role in hiring and promoting decisions. Yet, I think that it would be impractical, and a rather "slippery slope" to create a law that protects people against "appearance discrimination". This factor would be rather difficult to evaluate, since "beauty" or "attractiveness" is so subjective. Currently, in discrimination cases about race or gender, the legal test can easily determine whether or not the plaintiff belongs to a certain race, or a certain gender. Attractiveness is not nearly as simple.

Plus there are some positions like sales, or retailers, and industries like fashion, where appearance and composure is more important because these people are representing the company. The employers themselves may not be discriminatory, but they recognize that their clients prefer to be served by attractive people. Should employers be liable for complying with the desires of their clients?

I think one of the most precarious businesses with regards to attractiveness and its hiring process is Abercrombie & Fitch. The CEO, Mike Jeffries unapologetically admits that his company only hires pretty people. "We only hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that." Mike Jeffries believes that this "emotional experience" about sexual attraction is vital for his business. What do you think about this? Do you think Mike Jeffries should be allowed to use such hiring practices as a way to vamp A&F's brand identity?

3:00 PM  
Blogger Frekinawesome said...

Abercrombie's Top Dude Doesn't Do Ugly


3:01 PM  
Blogger Jeremy Byers said...

I agree with frekinawesome, how would the law define beauty or attractiveness. For the statistics though through CNN. Somebody might not be able to afford their beauty as in all the make-up the surgery some get and things of that nature, so that might be why the stats say they make less. Just a thought.

3:44 PM  
Blogger Sara Marker said...

I agree that there are positions where attractiveness matters (sales, fashion, etc). In any position where the employee publically represents the company, or where looks affect the customer's perception of the company there is always going to be a tendency to hire attractive people. I don't think that it's so extreme that an employer would hire people who were incapable but attractive and as was said before there really is no way to legally and objectively measure attractiveness so I don't think there should or could be laws protecting against it.
I would also like to add that I am a psychology major and there have been some pretty conclusive social psychology studies that have found that people judge attractive individuals to be smarter and more capable than less attractive people. It's something that's subconcious and it would be very hard to control for.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Professor Prenkert said...

As Abercrombie & Fitch learned several years ago, despite that there is no federal law prohibiting "lookism" or "appearance discrimination," it may be a short ride between that and unlawful race or national origin discrimination. How the employer defines "good looking" can be based on characteristics either closely tied to a protected status or explicitly defined by it.

As we're learning in the assignment for March 7, sometimes crossing that line might be a part of implicit biases that we all likely have in one form or another.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Jenny Rubenstein said...

I think that the German requirement to submit a picture along with their resume is definitely telling that in their culture looks may play a part in hiring decisions. This would never happen in the U.S., as there is so much emphasis on basing hiring decisions only on job-related qualifications. This also relates to the biases we discussed in class today, as those making hiring decisions who may have a personal bias against someone of a certain race or religion can make assumptions about the person's background based on a picture, whether or not their assumptions may be accurate.

As far as employees who make themselves look more presentable for work, I am not sure if being more attractive is resulting in more promotions and better wages, but perhaps the idea that taking pride in one's personal appearance can imply that one also takes other aspects of their life more seriously, including their job.

4:06 PM  

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