Did you know that people judge others’ competence based on their weight? And that affects whether they hire and how much they pay. Shocking, isn’t it? And this bias is mostly felt by white women who are already battling the glass ceiling.
First impressions really do count
This weight-bias, which is often unconscious, is apparently worst at the point of hiring, possibly because people make snap judgements based on appearance where they have no familiarity of the person's skills: judgements such as ‘if you can’t look after yourself, then how can you look after my business’.
If you are in sales, PR or spend time networking, then you could also be a victim of ‘quick judgements’. We are wired to make a judgement about someone new within seconds and then we look for evidence to confirm that judgement. So if your shirt button has come undone, the person you are meeting will either decide you’ve put on so much weight your clothes don’t fit or that you’ve had a hectic morning and you’ve not noticed you missed a button in your hurry - the difference in judgement being their perception of your weight.
As a manager, if you have a democratic or laissez-faire style of leadership, through the lens of weight bias your colleagues who perceive you as overweight may describe you as lazy.
Weight inversely influences salary
According to research in the US, weight can also influence your salary with differences amounting to thousands of dollars. Not only did women’s salaries decrease as they put on weight, but underweight women had higher salaries than women of ‘average’ weight, potentially due to representations of ‘ideal’ and ‘attractive’ body types in the media. By contrast, men were likely to earn less for being underweight and only likely to earn less again once they became obese.
Confidence issues compound the problem
From personal experience, I found my confidence levels changed as I put on weight. I became more self-conscious about what I was wearing, what people said about me and how they were looking at me. I felt I had to work harder to get recognition for my abilities and was less likely to be considered for promotion. Certainly my career stagnated about the time I had put on lots of weight.
What can you do?
I certainly don’t support this culture of body shaming and prejudice and believe it should be tackled alongside every other form of discrimination - in law and in the work place. However just like Cheryl Sandberg who urged women to ‘lean in’ while waiting for policy and systems to address gender bias in the workplace, so I urge overweight women to decide whether to challenge, manage or change.
Challenge: When you look around you, how many female members of your senior leadership are overweight? Is that a statistic that needs to be addressed?
Manage: Create a strong brand image by investing in good quality clothing with a fashionable and flattering cut and design, rather than the ‘baggy look’ so often worn to hide an expanding waistline. Add to that an edgy hair cut and 'acting slim', you can undermine the stereotype that people become dishevelled and don’t care about their looks as they gain weight.
Change: In the UK 58% of women were designated overweight in 2015. If you don’t want to be that person, be that statistic, earn less that you're worth, you don't need to resort to an extreme diet, you need to review your lifestyle to work out the behaviours that are contributing to your weight gain. In the first place keep a food diary which will allow you to analyse your eating patterns and work out the most important habits to change for greatest impact.
If you would like support to get you back on track and kick ass in your world again or would like support to hold your hand on a weight-loss journey, message me and we can discuss how I can help you transform your relationship with food. Or join my Facebook Group Shift your Mindset, Shift your Weight http://bit.ly/2N2Canl.