Small Business Hiring

Does Appearance Affect How You Treat (and pay) Your Employees?

Mar 06, 2013 • 3 min read
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      Who do  you pay the most in your business? I think we all know that we shouldn’t discriminate based on sex, ethnicity, and appearance—but is that how it falls out in the real world? Although none of these criteria have anything to do with how well you do your job, according to Aaron Gouveia, we still discriminate in the workplace. “And while it should never be condoned,” says Gouveia, “job seekers and employees need to be aware of how discriminatory practices regarding age, race, sex, and physical appearance can affect compensation.”

      Here are seven ways it happens today:

      1. Tall people get paid more money: A 2004 study by Timothy Judge at the University of Florida found that for every inch of height, a tall worker can expect to earn an extra $789 per year. That means two equally skilled coworkers would have a pay differential of nearly $5,000 per year, simply because of a 6-inch height differential, according to the study.
      2. Fat people get paid less: Obese workers (those who have a Body Mass Index of more than 30) are paid less than normal-weight coworkers at a rate of $8,666 a year for obese women, and $4,772 a year for obese men, according to a George Washington University study that cited data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth in 2004. And other studies indicate obese women are even more likely to be discriminated against when it comes to pay, hiring and raises.
      3. Blondes get paid more: A 2010 study from the Queensland University of Technology studied 13,000 Caucasian women and found blondes earn more than 7 percent more than female employees with any other hair color. The study said the pay bump is equivalent to the boost an employee would generally see from one entire year of additional education.
      4. Workers who workout get paid more: According to a study in the Journal of Labor Research, workers who exercise regularly earn 9 percent more on average than employees who don’t work out. The study from Cleveland State University claims people who exercise three or more times a week earn an average of $80 a week more than their slothful coworkers.
      5. Women who wear makeup make more: Not only do people judge beauty based on how much make-up a woman is wearing, make-up adorned women also rank higher incompetence and trustworthiness, according to a study funded by Procter & Gamble, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston University, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A study in the American Economic Review said women who wear make-up can earn more than 30 percent more in pay than non-make-up wearing workers.
      6. Handsome people are paid handsomely: A Yale University study from Daniel Hamermesh, which finds employers pay a beauty premium to attractive employees. The beautiful workers earn an average of roughly 5 percent more while unattractive employees can miss out on up to almost 9 percent, according to the study.
      7. If you’re too pretty, it’s a pity: Generally speaking, attractive people make out when it comes to salary and hiring. But what about the exceedingly attractive among us (champagne problems, right?)? If you’re an attractive man, don’t sweat it because you always enjoy an advantage, according to a 2010 study that appeared in the Journal of Social Psychology. However, women rated as very attractive face discrimination when applying for “masculine” jobs.

      I guess we haven’t learned that much in the last 40 years after all. What are you doing to make sure you don’t contribute to this statistic?

      Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty also shares his passion for small business every week on

      Author: Ty Kiisel | Google+

      About the author
      Ty Kiisel

      Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty makes small business financing and trends accessible in common sense language devoid of the jargon.

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