Women more likely to experience weight discrimination in workplace

women weight

Any additional weight put on by women can adversely affect their job prospects, according to the findings of a new study.

Even a slight increase in size within a healthy BMI range can have a negative impact on female candidates' job prospects, says the team at Strathclyde University.

The ‘right’ look

They team asked participants to rate people for their suitability for jobs in the service sector based on their appearance.

Professor Dennis Nickson, from the department of human resource management, claims many service sector companies, like shops, bars and hotels, are looking to employ people with ‘the right look' that fits with their corporate image.

One of the key elements of that look is their weight, he adds.

A number of past studies have highlighted how people who are obese or overweight suffer from negative bias when they look for employment.

The new study, though, shows how even women within a medically-healthy BMI range face weight-based discrimination in service-sector employment.

Customer vs non-customer facing roles

The survey asked 120 participants to rate eight pictures of men and women for their suitability for both customer-facing and non-customer facing roles.

Each potential candidate was equally qualified, but the faces reflected a ‘normal’ weight and a subtle ‘heavier’ face.

Prof Nickson said that while both women and men face challenges in a highly 'weight-conscious' labour market for customer-facing roles, women face far more discrimination.

In fact, women within a normal BMI range suffered from greater weight-based bias than men who were overtly overweight.

He says the study shows the levels of gender inequality in the workplace, and highlights the unrealistic challenges women face to fit in with societal expectations of how they should look.


The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.


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