News flash: Heavier women have it tough. Not only do bitchy Marie Claire bloggers think we have no right to exist in their world, but we get paid less. You'd think one place where the quality of your work (rather than the cuteness of your butt) would matter is at work. But you'd be wrong.
Obese women earn about 6 percent less than their thinner counterparts -- almost $5,000 per year, for the exact same work. The gap for guys? Only $2,600. And it gets worse: this discrimination starts for women at a BMI of only 27, which is right in the middle of the "overweight" range and works out to about a size 14 on me. Men don't start to take a hit in the wallet until a BMI of 35, well over the line into obesity.
Oh, it gets worse: women face this discrimination at three times the rate men do; in other words, men can get away with being fat.
This is, in many ways, the economic version of the stereotypical jackass guy I would encounter in my dating days: The more he sported the Body by Budweiser, the more he'd go on about "No fat chicks."
It goes beyond just weight discrimination, although that's certainly part of it. In some ways, this is something we do to ourselves. I've been thin and I've been fat, and am pretty much the same writer, friend, and worker at any BMI. But when you're fat, it shakes your confidence to the core. We are such a looks-obsessed society that you can literally feel invisible if you don't fit the ideal. And it's clear some people immediately decide you're less competent at everything because you're fat.
That grinds down the spirit, to say the least. Before too long, you start internalizing those feelings, exuding and expressing less confidence. You're less likely to speak up in meetings, less likely to network and promote yourself. That lack of confidence makes you seem more tentative, less decisive and secure in your abilities, and so you find yourself left out of important meetings and not getting the cool assignments. And the whole thing feeds into a cycle that ends with you on the slow-to-get-promoted, lower-paid track.
Losing weight helps, absolutely, but for many of us that is easier said than done. And life doesn't put itself on hold until you get your weight issues under control. Boosting your confidence is key to making people treat you better. Speak up in meetings, and master the art of the "cold stare and pause" if someone isn't listening to you. Remind yourself constantly that your weight is not linked to your intelligence or competence. Refuse to be marginalized. And if your state has a weight discrimination statute (mine does), familiarize yourself with it and start documenting.
Image via Rebecca Wilson (Saucy Salad)/Flickr