Human Resources Management Executive Memorandum To: From: Date: November 16, 2011 Re: Lookism ??? Appearance and the discrimination that goes with it Lookism is a more and more pressing problem for companies and corporations, that strive to create an equal opportunities work space. The definition of lookism is “bias or discrimination against individuals on the basis of appearance, often unconscious. ” This discrimination refers to both people who are not perceived as attractive and those who have to deal with the stereotypes connected to being exceptionally good-looking.
The business world should acknowledge this relatively new type of discrimination because it leaves companies vulnerable to a whole new field of lawsuits. Increasing awareness on the problem is the first step to be taken since lookism is mainly done unconsciously. Statistics provided by the EEOC show a considerable increase in lawsuits based on race, religion, sex, origin and age. Discrimination based on appearance is part of this increase, even though the correlation cannot be really seen. The report provides recent examples of lawsuits and their outcomes for the companies, which proves the problem is gaining popularity.
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A lot of research has been made over the last decade or so all showing that lookism is an actual problem and some of the perceptions that are based on it. The results of the studies all show that attractive people receive preferential treatment, starting from school where unattractive kids are the subject of bulling, where as it has been proven that on average attractive children are evaluated higher. The report also discusses the implications of above and below average good-looking people in their social lives and how that affects them as employees.
Data presented from different researches and studies shows a more comprehensive insight on how familiar people are with the problem. Overall the materials show a low level of awareness of the problem among employees and support the theory that people both discriminate and at the same time are not completely conscious of the reason for making some of their decisions. The report also explains the common stereotypes that are connected with beautiful people. A paradox is presented ??? if you are attractive you are considered to be smart, at the same time many women perceived as very beautiful are thought of as bubbleheads.
Lookism ??? Appearance and the discrimination that goes with it Discrimination is a problem usually referred to when speaking of race, religion, sex, origin, age, etc. , but lately discrimination based on how a person looks is becoming a more and more discussed topic. Lookism is defined as “bias or discrimination against individuals on the basis of appearance, often unconscious. ” The association made by lookism is usually that people who do not fit in the box of conventional beauty, but it goes both ways because people who are perceived as extremely good-looking are discriminated as well.
These prejudices pose a new challenge when a company tries to provide an equal opportunity workspace and an even bigger obstacle because most people do not realize that they discriminate on the basis of appearance. There are numerous laws that try to ensure equal opportunities for all people, but the issue of appearance is not really a part of any of them. Companies and corporations are well aware of equal opportunities laws but even so the number of lawsuits has not decreased over the past two decades.
On the contrary statistics show an increase of about 7% in discrimination lawsuits from 2009 to 2010 and an all overall 25% increase for the past decade. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 intends to protect people from discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin and religion, but does it help people who are not considered as conventionally beautiful and still discriminated against. A recent case that shows that the EEOC can help such people is the lawsuit against Starbucks. A woman, Elsa Sallard, was fired because she is a dwarf.
In that particular case the EEOC proved that Starbucks failed to provide reasonable accommodation and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The outcome of the lawsuit was that Elsa Sallard received a compensation of $750,000. However in the US legislation there is nothing that explicitly protects people who are for example short, obese, simply do not meet society’s standards of beauty or exceed it in any way. The problem here of course is how anyone can create a law that protects those people, when there is no clear definition of beauty.
People’s perception of beauty changes with time and is different in different areas of the world. Nevertheless research shows us that “taller men earned around $600 per inch more than shorter executives. ” Overall people perceived as beautiful have more job opportunities as well as a higher chance for advancement in their carriers. A study was conducted by the University of North Carolina at Pembroke on the topic of the relationship between attractiveness of professors and the perceived quality of their teaching.
What the study found out was a strong relationship between the two ??? “results indicated that as hotness ratings increased, so did ratings on overall quality, clarity, and helpfulness. Additionally, further analysis indicated that the greater the percentage of hotness ratings to overall ratings, the more likely that students rated the professors favorably. ” Moreover research shows that attractive people perform better when interviewed. An interesting fact is also that people who are dressed better have a higher performance rate.
It is believed that they are more confident and have a higher self-esteem. But the perks that good-looking people get out of when talking about work are not the only advantages they have. Appearance is not only important on the job but also in people’s social life. It is easier for attractive people to communicate with others, meet new people, date, marry, etc. These two aspects of life are of course interconnected. A person who is happy with their personal life has the predisposition to deal with more problems while at work, be more focused and overall do a better job.
On that base we can conclude that appearance does matter and has an immense influence on people’s everyday life. Research shows that lookism begins early on in a person’s life. It is common knowledge that starting with elementary school kids that wear glasses or have braces, both features perceived as unattractive, are bullied. At the same time attractive kids tend to receive higher grades on average. The stereotype stays throughout high school as well, when cheerleaders, who are supposed to be all thin, attractive girls, are some of the most popular people in school.
So it is no surprise when a good-looking person is chosen for a job position even if a less attractive one has the same qualifications. Another research conducted in 2005 aims to get more in-depth information of people’s attitude towards appearance-based discrimination. Interestingly enough the results show that people are not really concerned with that particular type of discrimination. When asked what type of discrimination they fear as employees ??? age, gender, race or looks, only about 11% of all participants expressed anxiousness about their looks, 31% were neutral and more than 57% answered with age, gender, and race.
The study also shows that people believe that an individual’s skill sets, knowledge, capabilities and qualifications are what determines whether or not they are hired. At the same time results of the same study show that about 94% of the people dress up for a job interview. In my opinion these numbers show that unconsciously people believe that looking good for an interview gives them an advantage, while at the same time thinking that all that is judged are their qualities as employees.
Another interesting question that is part of the research was “When meeting new co-workers, I look upon them more favorably when they are dressed in a professional manner. ” About 50% agreed with the statement and only 17% of the people disagreed. If we consider the last two questions and their answers we might reach the conclusion that people like being surrounded by beautiful or at least professional-looking people. But when asked if they had the chance to choose would they prefer a workplace with more attractive people about 43% of the participants disagreed and about 22% agreed, the rest 35% were neutral.
In my opinion this information shows that people do discriminate on the basis of appearance but it is done unconsciously. Another research conducted by Rice University also supports the theses that lookism is part of the business world today. According to their study – “People with birthmarks, scars and other facial disfigurements are more likely to receive poor ratings in job interviews”. But all of those features are not the only reasons for discrimination. A very popular discrimination is against obese people. This new trend also shows growing numbers.
Time magazines reported recently that obese people feel that now there is more discrimination against them compared to a decade ago. The article summarizes the results of a research that focuses not only on work related issues but also on situations from everyday life like “applying to college or for a scholarship, renting or buying a home in a neighborhood they desired, applying for a bank loan or dealing with police”. However the research is very contradictory because lookism does not apply only to people, who are not good-looking, it also applies to people who look exceptionally beautiful and therefore are discriminated against.
For example wearing make-up enhances the way women look that is if a woman is wearing make-up it is suggested that she looks better than when not having any. A study shows that women feel that when not wearing make-up they are perceived as “not healthy, heterosexual or credible”. A prove of what a deep impact appearance has on people is the common stereotype that blonds are less intelligent than brunettes, at the same time being blond is perceived by society as a feature that makes you more beautiful.
On the one hand if a person is beautiful they are supposed to be less credible, hardworking and bright, while at same time the exact opposite is believed as well. This new paradox complicates the situation even further more. Overall what all of this information shows us is that companies should be aware of this problem, because it puts them in a situation where they are vulnerable and completely unprotected from this new threat that lookism poses.
The fact that there are no laws that deal with this particular type of discrimination leaves not only people with no means to fight against it but also leaves no way for companies to protect themselves. Even though many businesses enforce dress codes so that all of their employees look professional, it does not mean that they do not give some preferential treatment when it comes to bonuses, perks and even hiring or letting go of certain employees. Considering all the research and materials provided in this report it can be concluded that lookism is a problem that should be considered.
All the data shows us that people are unaware of the issue and even more discriminate on an unconscious level. However the problem does exist and is a type of discrimination that cannot be ignored. I believe that companies should take actions to increase the awareness on the problem. Since people do not realize when they themselves discriminate I think that having more information and actually acknowledging the problem as such is the first step towards a world of equal opportunities for all. Don’t judge a book by its covers” ??? this popular saying is what companies should consider when making decisions that concern their employees and be careful because lookism will be next main problem they will have to face. References: 1. “lookism” A Dictionary of Media and Communication. First Edition by Daniel Chandler and Rod Munday. Oxford University Press Inc. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. BIC – American University in Bulgaria. 15 November 2011 <http://www. oxfordreference. com/views/ENTRY. html? subview=Main&entry=t326. e1567> 2. USA. U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
US EEOC Home Page. Office of Research, Information and Planning. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://eeoc. gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/charges. cfm>. 3. Rabiner, Stephanie. “Starbucks Sued by EEOC for Firing Dwarf| Reuters. “??Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | Reuters. com. Reuters, 19 May 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://www. reuters. com/article/2011/05/19/tagblogsfindlawcom2011-freeenterprise-idUS269009836120110519>. 4. Bracamontes, Aaron. “Starbucks Pays $75K in Suit Filed by Woman with Dwarfism – El Paso Times. “??Home – El Paso Times. 19 Aug. 2011. Web. 5 Nov. 2011. <http://www. elpasotimes. com/newupdated/ci_18707661>. 5. Fox, Kate. “Mirror, Mirror – A Summary of Research Findings on Body Image. “??Social Research – Social Trends Analysis. 1997. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <http://www. sirc. org/publik/mirror. html>. 6. Bonds-Raacke, Jennifer, and John D. Raacke. “The Relationship between Physical Attractiveness of Professors and Students’ Ratings of Professor Quality. “??Journal of Psychiatry, Psychology and Mental Health??1. 2 (2007). Scientific Journals. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <http://www. scientificjournals. org/journals2007/articles/1227. df>. 7. Dellinger, Kirsten, and Christine L. Williams. “Makeup at Work: Negotiating Appearance Rules in the Workplace. “??Gender and Society??11. 2 (1997): 151-77. JSTOR. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <http://www. jstor. org/stable/190541>. 8. Zakas, Nicholas C. “The Eye of the Beholder: Appearance Discrimination in the Workplace. ” Thesis. ENDICOTT COLLEGE, 2005. 11 May 2005. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <http://www. nczonline. net/downloads/AppearanceDiscriminationInTheWorkplace. pdf>. 9. “Facial Disfigurements Negatively Impact Job Applicants. “??Medical News Today: Health News. 12 Nov. 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 011. <http://www. medicalnewstoday. com/releases/237448. php>. 10. Park, Alice. “The Obese Feel More Discrimination – TIME. “??Breaking News, Analysis, Politics, Blogs, News Photos, Video, Tech Reviews – TIME. com. TIME Magazine, 11 Apr. 2008. Web. 16 Nov. 2011. <http://www. time. com/time/health/article/0,8599,1730150,00. html>. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. “lookism” A Dictionary of Media and Communication. First Edition by Daniel Chandler and Rod Munday. Oxford University Press Inc. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. BIC – American University