Just A Few Extra Pounds Make Women Less Hireable, Because Of Course

by Meredith Bland
Image via Shutterstock

New study shows that even women at healthy weights face job discrimination

If You’re A Woman With A Body And A Job Where People Can See You, We’ve Got Bad News.

We’ve known for a while that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to face discrimination at work, with obese people earning 1-6% less than their slimmer co-workers, and obese women earning less than obese men because of course they do. (Penises are very slimming.) But a new study has found that even small differences in weight among women with healthy BMIs have an effect on how employable they are considered to be.

A study published earlier this month in the journal Plos One looked at the effect of subtle changes in weight on how qualified a person was for a “front stage” job that involves customer interaction, like waitressing or sales, versus a “backstage” job, like working in the kitchen or cleaning toilets with a toothbrush. Researchers altered the photos of male and female faces to make them appear to be a variety of different BMIs, and asked participants, after telling them to assume that all of these people were equally qualified, how likely they would be to hire the person in the photo for various jobs. They found that “women within the normal BMI range appear to suffer greater weight-based bias than men who are overtly overweight.”

Examples of photos used in study

A press release from the Universty of Strathclyde, which conducted the study, said, “These results affirm that even a marginal increase in weight appears to have a negative impact on the hireability ratings of female job applicants. For women, it seems, even seemingly minute changes to the shape, size and weight of the body are important.” That’s right. Even a few extra pounds made women less hireable than men. “Sure, Todd has at least fifty pounds on Sally, but you have to admit, that penis really balances him out.”

This is infuriating and scary news, given that 1) the average American woman is about a size 14 and b) what the fuck, people? Fat discrimination is only illegal in the state of Michigan and the cities of Santa Cruz, CA, San Francisco, CA, Madison, WI, Urbana, IL, Washington, DC, and Binghamton, NY. That’s it. Anywhere else, you can put on ten pounds, get fired, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Fat Todd, however, still gets to pay his rent this month.

Women’s bodies have faced unfair scrutiny and been held to unachievable standards for a long time (for evidence, see The World), but the idea that we are scrutinized down to the pound is maddening. In a survey by Refinery 29, 70% of the millennial women who responded said that they would not gain ten pounds in exchange for a promotion. My first response to this was, “Damnit, millennial women respondents!” But shoot, after this study it looks like they would have just been demoted again anyway. After all, it’s one thing to be a 125-pound Old Navy manager, but it’s a whole other thing to be a 135-pound Old Navy manager. No one wants to buy capris from a size 8, ladies.

There’s a lot of talk these days about how feminism is no longer necessary because women have achieved equality. Well, if a woman who is ten pounds lighter is hired over an equally qualified woman while Fat Todd gets promoted to head cashier, then I would like to take that claim, give it a home, call it Bullshit, and let it sleep at the foot of my bed. We still need to push for equal rights because we are still assigned value based on our size, and it looks like the expectations are even less realistic than we thought.