Glamorous Makeup Makes Women Appear Incapable for the Job: Study
Thu, April 22, 2021

Glamorous Makeup Makes Women Appear Incapable for the Job: Study

Wearing make-up has an impact on how people perceive women, making them more trustworthy, likable, competent, and attractive. However, those wearing glamorous make-up are not seen are competent / Photo by: AlikeYou via Shutterstock

 

Wearing make-up has an impact on how people perceive women, making them more trustworthy, likable, competent, and attractive. However, those wearing glamorous make-up are not seen are competent. Instead, they are seen as untrustworthy or incapable of the job, a Harvard study finds.

The research was recently highlighted by Australian Broadcasting Corporation upon sharing the story of 28-year-old marketing officer Kate, whose real name was not published for privacy. Kate was told by her manager that her headshot photo that is to be uploaded to the company’s internal system is “too glam” that people may interpret she is only about looks and makeup. As a result, her co-workers may not take her seriously for the job. 

Good, but Not Too Good

Although the image was only for internal use, Kate said that she was “taken aback” by the words of her manager, who hinted that the comment came from one of their male bosses. The words impacted Kate’s confidence that she stopped wearing much make-up for fear that people may view her as just someone who cares about being glam and all dressed-up. “It impacted my mental health,” Kate shares, referring to how she couldn’t wait to leave her job.

Attractiveness in the Workplace

University of Chicago professor Jacklyn Wong, whose research focuses on attractiveness in the workplace and how it relates to income, said that there are rewards linked with grooming practices. If they act the way they are expected to, they will be rewarded. However, if they act outside the narrow requirements, it means that they will be punished.

Beauty Penalty vs. Beauty Premium

Meanwhile, business psychologist  Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explained that there is such a thing as attractiveness bias at work. The majority of us may only know ageism, racism, and sexism, but one of the most prominent and pervasive biases that are hardly acknowledged is beauty bias or “lookism.” In the labor market, physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and get hired and more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through promotions compared to unattractive individuals. The common examples of appearance-based discrimination in the labor market bias are those against tattooed, oddly-dressed, and obese employees or people who don’t fit the majority of aesthetic criteria.

University of Queensland Business School's Professor Charmine E. J. Hartel opined, though, that beauty premium or lookism is still strong compared to the beauty penalty. Whether people in the workplace may intend it or not, such a kind of commentary still falls in the category of sexism, gender bias, and workplace incivility. This most especially applies if attractive women are subjected to unwanted comments and sexual approaches in the workplace.

Professor Hartel added that there are workplaces where certain clothing is required for employees’ safety, such as those in the construction industry having to wear steel-cap boots or those in the medical field having to wear slip-proof shoes. But if the workplace doesn’t have special clothing requirements and the woman is asked to change despite wearing clean and socially-acceptable attire, it would be discriminatory. Those are cases when employees can act by making a formal complaint, talk to the union, or talk to the HR. 

Other studies have also shown the potential downside of attractiveness, like in the service sector, where beauty can create distance between employees and customers who perceive themselves as less good-looking.

Why Women Wear Makeup

According to another study titled “Why women use makeup: implication of psychological traits in makeup functions,” about 44% of American women don’t like to leave their homes without wearing makeup. The top reasons for using makeup are camouflage (to hide anxiety and insecurity) and seduction (to be more confident, assertive, and sociable). This 44 % of American women think that if they show their untouched and natural face, they won’t be able to accomplish things they do and they will be treated differently. 

The two universal features that contribute to the attractiveness of female faces are (1) the amount of color contrast in the lips and around the eyes and (2) how even and symmetrical her face is. 

Beauty Industry: Statistics

The global cosmetic industry is now worth more than $500 billion and is estimated to reach almost $805 billion by 2023. Database company Statista details the annual growth of the global cosmetics market in the following years: 2004 (3.4%), 2006 (4.9%), 2008 (2.9%), 2010 (1%), 2012 (4.6%),2014 (3.6%), 2016 (4%), and 2018 (5.5%). Furthermore, women in the US spend around $3,000 annually on cosmetics and this translates toa round $225,360 throughout their entire lifetime, the New York Post shared. On the other hand, men spend an average of $2,928 annually on beauty and health products.

In a world that hires and admires beautiful people, women can still overcome beauty bias. One way to emphasize competence is by mastering the art of the first impression, especially during the hiring process. Use positive body language, build trust, and practice active listening to show competence at work. These may sound trivial but can make all the difference.

The global cosmetic industry is now worth more than $500 billion and is estimated to reach almost $805 billion by 2023 / Photo by: Dmitry_Tsvetkov via Shutterstock