How to stop the “beauty is beastly” effect
And it’s hard to muster up sympathy for them because they take the perks of being beautiful without A. SINGLE. COMLAINT. Have you ever heard of a model declining a job because of a magazine’s unfair discrimination against people who are too average, short, or overweight?
Now, if I take a step away from my annoyance, it’s obvious that discrimination is discrimination regardless of gender, beauty, race or self-centredness.
There is a very real effect called the beauty is beastly effect. In this case, attractive women are discriminated against when applying for “masculine” – type jobs.
A new article1 examines how to stop the beauty is beastly effect. The results suggest if a woman simply acknowledges that her beauty and sex is out of whack with the typical male applicant, she suddenly seems a lot more suitable for the job.
If you like to stick around for the details, here we go.
Details and More Details
For the experiment, undergraduate business students evaluated four job finalists: three men (who were fillers) and one woman (the focus of the experiment). All were applying for a construction job. Note – the construction job is typically a male job that would elicit the beauty is beastly effect.
For the four job finalists, a student saw the following:
1. A picture. Remember the point of the experiment was to test the beauty is beastly effect, so the picture of the woman was either attractive or unattractive.
2. Interview transcripts. The transcripts consisted of four interview questions. For all applicants, the responses to the questions were the same except for one question: Why should the applicant be hired? Again, the reason for study was to test the perception of women applying for a typically male job. Consequently, when a student saw the picture of either the attractive or unattractive woman, the student read one of these responses to the question depending upon which group s/he was in (the blue highlights indicate that the difference between the responses):
i. CONTROL GROUP: You should hire me because my skills and work experience are a perfect fit for this job. If you look at my work history, you will see that I have been successful in this industry and I am motivated to do the job.
ii. ACKNOWLEDGE PHYSICAL APPEARANCE GROUP: I know that I don’t look like your typical construction worker, but if you look at my work history, you will see that I have been successful in this industry and I am motivated to do the job.
iii. ACKNOWLEDGE SEX GROUP: I know that there are not a lot of women in this industry, but if you look at my work history, you will see that I have been successful in this industry and I am motivated to do the job.
Students judged all applicants on these statements to determine suitability for the construction position: 1) I feel that this applicant answered the interview questions well; 2) I have a favourable impression of this candidate; 3) I would be likely to offer this applicant the job.
When there was no mention of appearance or sex inconsistency, the results showed unattractive compared to attractive women were judged to be more suitable for the construction position. However, attractive women made up ground when they acknowledged either their looks or sex were not typical of the industry.
At first blush, these results seem great. There’s a solution to the beauty is beastly effect.
When an attractive woman applies for a male sex-typed job, she can experience discrimination. This discrimination can be stopped in its tracks with the woman acknowledging that her looks and sex are incongruent with the typical job applicant during the interview process.
Unfortunately, the result places the onus on the victims to do something about discrimination. We really need to be dealing with the perpetrators of the discrimination. Are small steps better than no steps? Or are we sending the wrong message?
1 Johnson, S. K., Sitzmann, T., & Nguyen, A. T. (2014). Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful: Acknowledging appearance mitigates the ‘‘beauty is beastly’’ effect. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 125, 184-192.