Sunday, 18 September 2011

Mirror mirror on the wall…

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Good luck with that. It may not be very ‘PC’, but one of the first things you notice about a person is how they look – smart, scruffy, ugly, beautiful, skinny, fat.

You judge your future partner on how they look when you first meet, or whether you feel attracted to that stranger across the dancefloor on an evening out. Should this extend to work though? I remember at one point watching a documentary about bigger sized people that were disciminated against due to their weight, with employers admitting they assumed those people were lazier and not as able.

Is the same true if you’re considered more an ugly duckling than the beautiful swan?

There is a new book out called Honey Money, where the author Catherine Hakim argues the importance of good looks. She does combine it with some other factors which make up what she’s termed ‘erotic’ capital. These include sex appeal, how lively you are, your style, beauty and social skills you have. Apparently the better looking you are the better you are in the workplace.

Really?? Surely this can’t be true.

I know from past experience of cases where certain females did get hired based on their looks. Not naming any names here…This was something I found so shocking and really inappropriate. Don’t get my wrong if someone looks like a supermodel and has the best CV and skills, yes they deserve the job. However, hiring someone because they tickle your tastebuds really doesn’t cut it for me. In fact for some working alongside an uber attractive lad or lady may well put them off their own work, it can be very distracting you know.
Should people who are not deemed traditionally ‘beautiful’ miss out then and not be given a chance? Janet Street Porter is hardly the most attractive woman out there but she’s good at what she does, Mo Mowlam – should she have been stopped from getting anywhere in politics due to her less than perfect appearance in the beauty stakes? What about people with deformities and facial scarring? Are they less deserving to do well because they don’t look right? Where does it stop?

I agree with Julie Bindel, talking to Stylist magazine she says that “women should neither need nor desire to use their looks to get ahead in the boardroom”. It feels like we are taking a big step backwards if that’s how people feel they need to be to get ahead in their career.

Taking pride in your appearance is a different story, of course you should be dressed appropriately for work and greasy hair and dirty fingernails is not acceptable in a corporate environment. In the same vein though if you are a genius in your field and you’re not client facing does what you look like really matter?

I’ve never really found somebody’s looks to be an issue and that’s being completely honest. I don’t find I work better with people who are conventionally pretty than I would do those who are perhaps more in the ‘plain Jane’ category. I’d hate to think I’d ever be turned down for a promotion or a job role because I wasn’t deemed good looking enough.

However, it does appear that looks are an important factor in employment. According to new research you can earn approximately 20% more if you are good looking, well mannered and well groomed. I don’t know, perhaps people trust you more and feel you represent the company in a better light. Who knows.

Why is it then we wonder why women (and men of course) have such extreme body image issues, our children start to have weight concerns when they should be still playing with toys and having sweet treats and plastic surgery is so popular? If looks are now becoming important in your career what sort of message does that convey? Are we going into a future where people become perfect replicas of the ideal man and woman to get that relationship and secure that dream job? I’ve already blogged before about being able to pick and choose ideal features in your babies, could this be another reason parents might decide to pursue such an option?

Perhaps I better get back in that gym and invest in some more makeup, I don’t want to be left behind in the ugly corner at work…

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