A Few Extra Pounds Could Cost You a Job -- Only If You're a Woman, Obvi

As if women didn't already face incredible pressures to make their bodies conform to some ridiculous ideal, a new study released this month finds that even if your BMI is within the "healthy" range, employers might still be inclined to discriminate against you and hire a skinnier candidate. Fantastic.


It's pretty well established that people who are heavier face all sorts of biases. But this bit of research is particularly distressing, because it's not just people who are "obese" who are viewed unfavorably in hiring situations. Turns out even just a couple of extra pounds can make a big difference in your career.

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For the study, a group of people were shown a series of photos of candidates, all within the "healthy" BMI range, for a job and told all were equally qualified. The lower BMI folks were rated higher.

It happens to men, but it's women who get the worst treatment.

"I think the reason why women face greater bias than men is that there are societal expectations around what women should look like, so they face greater discrimination around body shape and size," Dennis Nickson, professor of human resource management at Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and author of the study, said in an interview with Shape. "This issue is particularly pronounced in the area of customer contact employees, which we considered in the article."

Great. That's just great.

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Had a baby recently? Injury or health problem that kept you from your regular exercise routine? That could hurt you when it comes to scoring a new gig in what the researchers for this study call the "weight-conscious labor market."

So let me get this straight: Women make less than men, we shoulder the vast majority of responsibility at home (particularly raising kids), and now there's proof that even a few extra pounds can mean the difference between employment or not. Talk about a man's world.

What can we do?

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The researchers point out that much of the discrimination is subconscious and people aren't even aware that they're doing it, so changing society's attitudes about assigning a magic weight to all women in general is the solution.

All we have to do is completely change society in order to get a fair shake at work. No big deal! You've got time to fit that in between carpool and that 8 a.m. meeting, right? 

Lucky for us there are plenty of women, and men too, who are fighting every day to make the world a little less hostile to women's bodies.

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Models like Tess Holliday, designers like Christian Siriano, comedian Amy Schumer, and an army of body-positive bloggers -- including my personal fave, Megan Jayne Crabbe (aka @bodyposipanda) -- are out there trying to put up a fight for women everywhere who have been told their value is tied to a number on a scale.

As depressing as research like this can be, it's important for us to have these conversations and acknowledge the harsh reality for women and do everything we can to push back. Not just for ourselves, but for our daughters too. We have to end this. It's sick, unfair, and just plain sexist.

We have to do better.


Image via Lionsgate 

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