Women Prevent Women Prettier Than Themselves From Getting Jobs
November 24, 2010 1:20 PM   Subscribe

From the NYT Economix blog: Are good-looking people more likely to get jobs? That depends whether you’re talking about men or women, according to a new working paper.

Job applicants in Europe and in Israel increasingly imbed a headshot of themselves in the top corner of their CVs. We sent 5,312 CVs in pairs to 2,656 advertised job openings. In each pair, one CV was without a picture while the second, otherwise almost identical CV contained a picture of either an attractive male/female or a plain-looking male/female. Employer callbacks to attractive men are significantly higher than to men with no picture and to plain-looking men, nearly doubling the latter group. Strikingly, attractive women do not enjoy the same beauty premium. In fact, women with no picture have a significantly higher rate of callbacks than attractive or plain-looking women. We explore a number of explanations and provide evidence that female jealousy of attractive women in the workplace is a primary reason for the punishment of attractive women.
posted by krautland (75 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
*Throws feet on desk, hands cupped behind head*
It's been working for me
posted by wcfields at 1:26 PM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Not sure how things work in Europe and Israel, but could it be that they're wishing to avoid sexual discrimination lawsuits or even the appearance of, by throwing out the attractive female applications?
posted by nomadicink at 1:27 PM on November 24, 2010


Attractive women are being punished because they aren't outperforming plain women? That's an interesting way to frame it.
posted by nathan v at 1:29 PM on November 24, 2010 [10 favorites]


This is an actual conversation I had with a friend. He runs his family's environmental engineering business. He's the president; both his mother and father have offices (father, an engineer; mother, an attorney) in the building.

Him: I'm really busy.
Me: You need to get an assistant. Someone to help with the grunt work.
Him: I can't.
Me: Why?
Him: I'd need to get someone cheap, so that probably means someone young, and my mother won't hire a young woman.
Me: Huh?
Him: She point-blank said we could never hire a woman younger and prettier than her.
Me: Well, who said your assistant had to be a woman? Get a dude.
Him: My mother won't allow a guy to be an assistant. "Men can't be secretaries," she said.
Me: Your family is really, really fucked up, you know that?
Him: Yeah. I'd have to bring them in and then have her decide whether she was ugly enough, and I just don't want the hassle.
Me: Dude, your family is really, really fucked up.
Him: You already said that.
Me: I know. I think it needs to be said more often.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:29 PM on November 24, 2010 [56 favorites]


Where is that study that correlates height to salary? I'm getting on the rack right now, each inch is like $10K a year.
posted by fixedgear at 1:32 PM on November 24, 2010


In future resumes I am going to attach a picture of an attractive man with a caption on it that states "This is not my actual picture, it has been attached to improve my chances of being called back."
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:37 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell - when I was involved in a family business, my mom was equal opportunity - NO ONE was good enough.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:38 PM on November 24, 2010


I'd be even more interested in seeing how the attractive fare against the plain in the actual interviews.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:39 PM on November 24, 2010


I was waiting to see how this would be spun to be women's faults, and the NYT did not disappoint.

That said, I think it is true that, in general, the industrialized world takes conventionally attractive men more seriously and conventionally attractive women less seriously. Patriarchy! We're soaking in it!
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:46 PM on November 24, 2010 [11 favorites]


That said, I think it is true that, in general, the industrialized world takes conventionally attractive men more seriously and conventionally attractive women less seriously. Patriarchy! We're soaking in it!

I was waiting to see how the anti-male discrimination would be spun to be straight-up patriarchy, and Metafilter did not disappoint.
posted by John Cohen at 1:51 PM on November 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sidhedevil: "I was waiting to see how this would be spun to be women's faults, and the NYT did not disappoint."

"Spun" by the NYT?

First, you recognize that the text is a direct quote from the abstract, written by two distinctly non-NYT affiliated academics, right?

Second, can you describe how your detailed analysis of this lengthy paper led you to dismiss the authors' claim as "spin"?
posted by Perplexity at 1:55 PM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Job applicants in Europe and in Israel increasingly imbed a headshot of themselves in the top corner of their CVs.

Is this true? How did this practice start?
posted by enn at 2:02 PM on November 24, 2010


I would, of course, not phrase it the way that John Cohen did. But I also am a bit confused as to why discrimination against short or plain men is evidence of patriarchy?
posted by Justinian at 2:04 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


...when I was involved in a family business, my mom was equal opportunity...

Low-hanging fruit, anyone?
posted by griphus at 2:04 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Where is that study that correlates height to salary?

"Standing tall pays off":
When it comes to height, every inch counts--in fact, in the workplace, each inch above average may be worth $789 more per year, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Psychology (Vol. 89, No. 3).

The findings suggest that someone who is 6 feet tall earns, on average, nearly $166,000 more during a 30-year career than someone who is 5 feet 5 inches--even when controlling for gender, age and weight.
The height discrimination is stronger for men than for women.

Now, I know someone will point out that men on average still make more than women on average. But there are many possible reasons for this other than gender discrimination, since men and women behave differently in all sorts of ways. By the same token, maybe taller people are more confident, and that's what leads to their higher salaries. In that case, there'd be a correlation, but not necessarily causation, between height and salary.
posted by John Cohen at 2:05 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is this true? How did this practice start?

They didn't have a civil rights movement.
posted by dobie at 2:05 PM on November 24, 2010


Civil heights movement, lolamirite?
posted by fixedgear at 2:16 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was waiting to see how this would be spun to be women's faults, and the NYT did not disappoint.

From section 5.4 of the paper:

"In light of the above, the jealousy explanation seems especially fitting when we consider that 93% of the respondents in our sample were female (as determined by their voice when they left a voicemail message, their name when they sent an email or by a discreet phone call to the company when there was any doubt as to the respondent's sex). One may be concerned that the person calling back to invite the candidate for an interview may not be the same discriminating person who screened the CVs. Yet, human resource departments in Israel and indeed throughout the West are staffed predominantly by women. To verify this stereotype, we asked to speak with the person who screens candidates' CV when conducting the post-experiment survey. In 24 of the 25 (96%) companies we interviewed that person is a female."
posted by silentpundit at 2:18 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


I would, of course, not phrase it the way that John Cohen did. But I also am a bit confused as to why discrimination against short or plain men is evidence of patriarchy?

Well, "patriarchy" doesn't mean (or shouldn't mean) that all men benefit equally. As grobstein has said, it's not "a Man's World," it's "Some Men's World." (I don't even agree with that, but I appreciate his point, and apparently 250 other people do too.) If you define "patriarchy" fairly broadly to mean all kinds of traditional sexism, then you could say discrimination against short men is patriarchal, because it's an example of how "some men" (mostly tall ones) rule the world.

However, I wonder whether the word "patriarchy" is the most useful word to describe this. I don't know why we don't just say it's gender-based discrimination, which is wrong per se, whether it's against plain women or plain men or short women or short men or whomever.
posted by John Cohen at 2:19 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


All of this needs to have "in Israel" appended. Drawing conclusions about society in the United States, for example, from a study which was conducted in Israel, which has some major cultural differences to the US, seems extremely premature. And on top of that, we seem to have no idea, from my skimming of the paper, what the attractive/plain women and men looked like, and it's not a very quantitative measure. I hate hype over these sorts of things, I really don't think any reasonable conclusions can be drawn here that apply to most of us.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:22 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


However, I wonder whether the word "patriarchy" is the most useful word to describe this. I don't know why we don't just say it's gender-based discrimination, which is wrong per se, whether it's against plain women or plain men or short women or short men or whomever.

May I introduce you to kyriarchy?

Which is actually a useful term for the purposes of this discussion--from the link:

The schema of “kyriarchy” succeeds where the schema of “patriarchy” fails by acknowledging the wide variety of dominations/oppressions that humans suffer under: not just women-under-men, but queer-under-straight, trans-under-cis, PWD-under-TAB, POC-under-white, poor-under-rich, fat-under-thin, and so on. The masculinity-femininity axis is but one among many ways that humans exist with either privilege or oppression, and most of us exist with a complex array of privilege in some areas and oppression in others.
posted by emjaybee at 2:23 PM on November 24, 2010 [6 favorites]


Here's the "spin"--and everyone was right, it was wrong of me to say that the spin came from the NYT, because it was in the paper itself--it's in the language.

Look at the words used, like "punishment" and "jealousy" and the handwavey shit like "Studies have shown that women are more likely to be jealous than men" (with one study cited).

Also, look at the makeup of the test population: as you see on the last page with the data on Table 10, the male test applicant population was 130 attractive vs. 69 plain, whereas the female test applicant population was 107 attractive vs. 114 plain.

That's a pretty significant skew at such small numbers. And to be honest, I think it would be hard to find a random sampling of men and women who fell into that grouping; when I encounter random groupings of 200 men and 200 women, I tend to see many more "attractive" women than "attractive" men, simply because there are more social pressures on women to care for their appearance. So that seems quite anomalous to me, and suggests a problem of the instrument at best, and an attempt to bias the data at worst.

I was waiting to see how the anti-male discrimination would be spun to be straight-up patriarchy, and Metafilter did not disappoint.

Well, John Cohen, I see the patriarchy bit in the tone of the paper, with all the shaming women for being mean to their fellow women who are more attractive than they. (I mean, let's say that the data are accurate, which I don't accept without replication because of the instrument issues I cite above, especially for the segment in which the authors suggest they found a strong correlation between the women who didn't interview attractive applicants as potential colleagues, based on a sample size of about 50; remember, the employment agency folks didn't seem to show that bias to a statistically significant degree, so that larger sample there doesn't show the trend.)

Here's another place I see the patriarchy in the process, even though it is hurting men in this instance--unless the employment agencies of Israel are completely unlike those of the US, they have a high percentage of low-level, high-turnover secretarial jobs among the positions they have to fill. It's certainly been shown that there is a strong prejudice against hiring men to fill such jobs, which certainly sucks for men.

But that prejudice comes from patriarchy, not feminism. The reason companies don't want to hire men to do "women's work" isn't because of empowerment of women--it's because it's assumed that men will be unlikely to stick in that kind of job, because they'll feel like they're "worth more."
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:28 PM on November 24, 2010 [14 favorites]


On the other hand, jobs as tv anchors nearly require good looking women ....
Women in the workplace are like women not in the workplace but in any gathering: they check out and fear competition. Men are much less concerned with looks in gatherings of any kind.
posted by Postroad at 2:28 PM on November 24, 2010


Job applicants in Europe and in Israel increasingly imbed a headshot of themselves in the top corner of their CVs
In my little corner of Europe it has been very common as far as I remember. Employers routinely ask for a photo. If anything, the recent evidence that this practice hurts minorities as well as senior or obese candidates (among other categories) has made it a little less palatable, but the "anonymous CV", or at least a CV without pic, age or gender, won't happen anytime soon.
posted by elgilito at 2:29 PM on November 24, 2010


And on top of that, we seem to have no idea, from my skimming of the paper, what the attractive/plain women and men looked like, and it's not a very quantitative measure.

They do describe in some detail in the paper how they rated the attractiveness of the photos. Sure, it's pretty quick and dirty, but this isn't exactly uncharted territory. What do you want them to do, attach all the photos as an appendix to the paper for you?
posted by ssg at 2:33 PM on November 24, 2010


In light of the above, the jealousy explanation seems especially fitting when we consider that 93% of the respondents in our sample were female (as determined by their voice when they left a voicemail message, their name when they sent an email or by a discreet phone call to the company when there was any doubt as to the respondent's sex)

That's where the spin comes in. First of all, note that it presupposes that the female hiring officers are themselves not attractive. I mean, WTF? Given that the "attractive" pool of women here is assessed at a bit under 50%, that seems like an unfounded assumption.

I can think of several other explanations for why female hiring officers might be reluctant to hire women whose picture suggested they would be perceived as attractive (assuming I accept this data, which I am not sure I do, given the weird skew between the male and female "attractive" numbers I pointed out above):

- It may be that their experience is that very "attractive" women frequently leave their office jobs for better-paying work where their appearance is at a premium (modeling, Hooters girl, whatever);

- It may be that their experience is that very "attractive" women frequently leave their office jobs as a result of sexual harassment;

- It may be that, instead of being "jealous" of the "attractive" women, they are eager to give a leg up to women they feel have gotten a raw deal because of their "plain" looks.


The bias of the authors is so inherent to them that they are just taking it as fact. Which is fine, because that's what people do in ordinary life (and of course it's what I'm doing here, and what all of us are doing).

The issue is when someone is trying to do science (even social science) and they're using their bias as data.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:35 PM on November 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


They do describe in some detail in the paper how they rated the attractiveness of the photos.

Yes, but since they came up with 130:69 attractive:plain for men, and 107:114 attractive:plain for women, that suggests that their rating system wasn't very objective.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:37 PM on November 24, 2010


I think this is a poorly constructed experiment and a poorly written paper. For the reasons that I have adumbrated above.

And yes, John Cohen, I do think it sucks that it's harder for men to get low-end office jobs because that's seen as "women's work." I don't labor under the delusion that patriarchy (I think it's patriarchy in this instance, not a larger kyriarchy) doesn't hurt men, too.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:39 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


But that prejudice comes from patriarchy, not feminism. The reason companies don't want to hire men to do "women's work" isn't because of empowerment of women--it's because it's assumed that men will be unlikely to stick in that kind of job, because they'll feel like they're "worth more."

This would assume that the attractive males would be assumed to be even more unlikely to work out in an entry-level job.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:42 PM on November 24, 2010


The bias of the authors is so inherent to them that they are just taking it as fact. Which is fine, because that's what people do in ordinary life (and of course it's what I'm doing here, and what all of us are doing).

The issue is when someone is trying to do science (even social science) and they're using their bias as data.


I'm thinking back to all the times I've heard someone voice a sentiment like "I'm studying social sciences so that I can make a positive difference in the world," and how few times I've heard someone express "I'm studying social sciences so that I can be as honest as I can in my collection of data and form predictive models of human behavior, no matter whom I may offend."

Science is about observation, not activism.

Oops, there I go doing it, too.
posted by silentpundit at 2:42 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Women with no picture do the best. That's really the most striking part of this whole thing. A couple theories: the attractive women are still unattractive compared to media images of what women should look like. Or a picture reinforces the applicant's femaleness more than just a name does, and femaleness is a negative; text-only resumes allow the reader to focus more on the applicant's qualifications. How they can get "women hate attractive women" out of this is really perplexing.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:44 PM on November 24, 2010 [18 favorites]


This would assume that the attractive males would be assumed to be even more unlikely to work out in an entry-level job.

There are fewer jobs for men that hire solely on the basis of appearance, aren't there? I mean, there aren't Hooters boys, and though there are certainly male go-go dancers and male models and what-not, they seem to be significantly fewer than their female counterparts.

I'm just saying that that makes at least as much sense as "jealousy". As does "altruism"--maybe all of these women are just sad for the poor plain girls who probably don't have a happy life, so at least they can get preference in jobs.

Science is about observation, not activism.

I agree, silentpundit. Which is one of the many reasons I am not a social scientist.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:47 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Definitely agreeing with Sidhedevil here -- the data collection is suspcious on the face of it, and then the conclusions seem wildly speculative. It seems dubious whether or not they've observed any kind of phenomenon in the first place, and their theory to account for this already dubious observation seems pulled pretty much out of thin air.

It sure sounds to me like they are taking a mallet to some data so that it appears to fit a preconceived hypothesis.
posted by kyrademon at 2:51 PM on November 24, 2010


One big critique: there's little control for apparent applicant age in this study.

Applicant photographs are selected from university students, but unless things work differently in Israel, that's not enough control of age on its own.

Perceptions of beauty are highly related to perceptions of age. In particular, women that are likely to be judged beautiful are also more likely to be judged young.

Perceptions of age have a lot to do with hiring practices. Particularly, positions that require no experience prefer younger applicants (seen as having more energy, fewer bad habits, less likely to have unnecessary experience that leads to frequent turnover) whereas positions that require experience tend to prefer applicants of age.

I'm not sure what norms are in Israel. It may be the case that date of birth is considered appropriate for a resume. Even if it were so, I can imagine perceptions of age from photograph to be more important for the impressions of those hiring.

Plain women suffered no penalty as compared to no-photo women for jobs requiring experience; attractive women suffered no penalty when applying to jobs that required no experience. This lines up nicely with the question, "Hey, I wonder if all of those attractive women were younger women, and what we're really seeing here is an effect of age?" More, it suggests that the relative success of plain women over attractive women is a matter of selection of jobs-- if more applications were for jobs where no experience was required, then we'd see this effect reverse.

The "Negative Signalling" alternative hypothesis is treated poorly. The authors assume that because behavior is normative in one group (applicants) that it is normative in another group (those responsible for hiring.) The negative reactions cited to women including photos (56%!) could easily explain the benefit no-photo female applicants enjoy. Especially in light of this, seeing these data as evidence of punishment of attractive female applicants is really reaching.

Jealousy may be involved. It may be in addition to other factors, or it may be the only factor. But the authors don't do a good job of proving it. Rather, it feels as if this was the hypothesis the authors wanted to be true. Where is the review of the literature on negative signalling? Where is the source for the assertion that younger single women are most prone to jealousy? It stinks. (While we're on the subject of this, I think it's worth pointing out that women can be the agents of patriarchy as well as men.)

It also bothers me that the authors consistently point to hiring discrimination in favor of women-- by comparing the best performing group of women with the middle group of men. This isn't an apples-to-apples comparison.
posted by nathan v at 2:56 PM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


the attractive women are still unattractive compared to media images of what women should look like.

This is a bit of a derail, but I just read this post at Sociological Images about pre-photoshopped Playboy images and if you're interested in how actual playmates fare under scrutiny... I doubt that's what was going on with the attractive pictures in this study, but since it came up...
posted by ServSci at 3:06 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh, that link is NSFW.
posted by ServSci at 3:07 PM on November 24, 2010


Also ... even if I accepted their data collection as being unbiased (which I don't), if I were told the following:

A significant percentage of people in HR positions are more likely to call back attractive members of the opposite sex, but they do not show any bias one way or another regarding members of the same sex

... there is a conclusion that seems a WHOLE LOT MORE LIKELY than, er, "women are jealous bitches, clearly."

That they decided on the latter makes me think that this is a conclusion they desperately wanted to arrive at.
posted by kyrademon at 3:10 PM on November 24, 2010 [8 favorites]


Yes, but since they came up with 130:69 attractive:plain for men, and 107:114 attractive:plain for women, that suggests that their rating system wasn't very objective.

No it doesn't. It says nothing at all about whether the rating system was appropriate or not. Note that I'm not claiming their systems was well conceived, only that the ratios don't tell us if that's the case. In fact, their method seems perfectly adequate to me. They're not trying to come up with some objective method for judging attractiveness, they're trying to sort photographs into a pile of very attractive people and ugly people. "Plain" is being used as a euphemism.

Appearance is subjective, yes, but a panel of 8 people from various backgrounds can sort photographs in this manner. The people who the group disagrees about are discarded and you're left with photographs of people that everyone agreed was attractive and of people everyone agreed was "plain". Which means unattractive.

You obviously have problems with the study; some of them are legitimate. But I think you're clearly deciding some of this must be problematic because you don't like the study rather than disliking the study because you find a lot of it problematic.
posted by Justinian at 3:13 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


A significant percentage of people in HR positions are more likely to call back attractive members of the opposite sex, but they do not show any bias one way or another regarding members of the same sex

Except that the point of the paper was that there was a bias for members of the same sex. A negative one. Attractive women were less likely to be called back.
posted by Justinian at 3:16 PM on November 24, 2010



1. small effect sizes (on the order of 2-6%), significant prejudice/interest, focus on p-values, few studies of this nature (esp. w/r/t female jealousy). ergo the study's findings are probably false.

2. "Callbacks to attractive and plain females, respec- tively, are 3.8% and 3.1% lower than to no-picture females – both differences are highly significant. However, the response rates of attractive and plain females are not significantly different from one another (Wald test p = .69)."

3. the response rate of attractive and plain females are not significantly different, and the callback rates for attractive and plain women are almost identical (12.8% vs 13.6%), yet the conclusion is: attractive women are being punished in favor of plain women. OH! also, no-pic CV gets more callbacks than them both, by a significant amount (16.6%). therefore.........

4. The conclusion should be: "women are punished for including a picture in their CV, regardless of how attractive they are." but that won't get you any attention, and it doesn't fit the narrative well enough. so instead you go with: "women who work in HR are jealous harpies" even though it doesn't fit the data. well done!
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 3:20 PM on November 24, 2010 [7 favorites]


Just to clarify - the difference between no-pic and any-pic is more significant, and larger than, the difference between attractive-pic and plain-pic.

So while this:

Attractive women were less likely to be called back.

is true, this:

Plain women were less likely to be called back.

is equally true according to the data (not the conclusions) in the study.

study can be downloaded here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1705244
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 3:23 PM on November 24, 2010


You're saying that the 13.6% callback rate for "plain" women versus the 12.8% callback rate for "attractive" women is significant, Justinian?

Especially considering the difference between "plain" and "attractive" men was 9.2% to 19.7%? A factor of more than two?

That's a massive bias found against attractive women? That 0.8% difference is the key factor here? Really?
posted by kyrademon at 3:24 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


i want a job in the resources dept. of a fortune 500 company, the dept, that is big business talk for personal dept.that dept. that hires and fires the help, the walking papers, pink slip dept. i would hire a plain looking applicant for every fox i hired and if an applicant walked in with a visible tatoo, she's hired on the spot!
posted by tustinrick at 3:27 PM on November 24, 2010


Or, to put it more plainly ... no, Justinian et al. That's not what the paper said. That's what they slanted their conclusion to make you think it said if you didn't read it.

The data, such as it is, doesn't say that women call back attractive women less. It says that they do not call them back *preferentially*.

And from this, the authors are trying to claim that the reason is jealousy.

You see why a bunch of us are finding the conclusions a bit jaw-dropping, now?
posted by kyrademon at 3:28 PM on November 24, 2010


However, I wonder whether the word "patriarchy" is the most useful word to describe this. I don't know why we don't just say it's gender-based discrimination, which is wrong per se, whether it's against plain women or plain men or short women or short men or whomever.

May I just say that I prefer the plain speech version? Our language doesn't happen in a vacuum, and if we really want to alleviate the sufferings of others, it's much, much more useful to talk about it simply. Specialized language can be a helpful shorthand when we discuss harder to summarize concepts, but it always needs individual interpretation and we risk alienating others whose interpretations may differ from ours or forgetting how nuanced the things we're talking about really are.

Can we agree that attractive men having a higher chance of employment over plain looking men is patriarchal? No. I can't even decide that it's not-patriarchal. That's not a conversation that can ever be much more than a back and forth.

But do we have a better chance of agreeing that sex-based discrimination, however it's wrapped up, is weird and not-right? I'd hope so, and that's a better conversation to have, I think.
posted by byanyothername at 3:30 PM on November 24, 2010


That is what the paper said.

The callback numbers you cite are for hiring by employment agencies, r_nebblesworthII. When the study looked at hiring by the companies themselves, and thus generally by a female HR person, the callback numbers were hugely different with no-picture and plain roughly the same and attractive lower by more than 1/3. The authors of the study take this discrepancy as strong evidence for their hypothesis.
posted by Justinian at 3:30 PM on November 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Anecdata: I've worked at many different places, but only 2 that were run almost entirely by women (a major bookstore chain, and a library). In both cases, there was zero chance of an attractive, younger woman being hired, no matter what her qualifications were. Attractive older women could be hired, though.
posted by coolguymichael at 3:38 PM on November 24, 2010


Postroad: Women in the workplace are like women not in the workplace but in any gathering: they check out and fear competition.

I... don't even know what to say to that so I'll leave this here.
posted by desjardins at 3:42 PM on November 24, 2010


Well! I tentatively withdraw my vitriol until I think about this some more!!!
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 3:45 PM on November 24, 2010


Job applicants in Europe and in Israel increasingly imbed a headshot of themselves in the top corner of their CVs.

Is this true? How did this practice start?


Yeah, when did we start saying "imbed" instead of "embed"?
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:47 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anecdata: In a past life I worked as an apprentice carpenter installing office partitions in offices (duh) that were mostly occupied when we were working in them. So happened I worked with a guy that was a major player, always hitting on women, every office we went into he'd scope out -- and usually find -- some woman to play his game; he really was a charmer, he was a lying, cheating snake but a charming lying, cheating snake.

There were offices we worked in that had only plain looking women, not many but there were some; this player would be all unhappy in those businesses. Chance? We certainly didn't think so, the percentages were just way too large, way too skewed for it to be chance. I of course have no idea who was hiring manager at those companies, and it's been a thousand years ago now, no way ever of finding out. But I'd bet dollars to dimes that it wasn't a guy who was a player.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:03 PM on November 24, 2010


Justinian -- You are correct that r_nebblesworthII and I were looking only at the overall numbers (although not the employment agency numbers, which are similar), and not the "company itself hiring" numbers which they were using to support the "jealousy" theory, which are somewhat different -- 9.2% callbacks for attractive women and 15.1% callbacks for plain women. My apologies.

However ... citing female jealousy as the reason still seems really pulled out of thin air to me. They offer little to support it.
posted by kyrademon at 4:05 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


There were offices we worked in that had only plain looking women, not many offices but there were some;
posted by dancestoblue at 4:06 PM on November 24, 2010


And in more anecdata proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that all women are completely unjealous, I had a female boss who wouldn't hire women she perceived as plain. She only wanted attractive young people on her staff, which drove me, as the defacto HR person, crazy because there were far more qualified plain people who I would have hired, rather than the cute young people she wanted. I'm weird like that: back when I was hiring people I mostly cared about whether they were actually qualified.

The conclusion being made here is completely ridiculous. It's a giant leap from 'women with no pictures get hired more often than women with pictures and then of the ones who have pictures the plain ones get hired more often than the attractive" to "Look at the catty jealous bitches who don't want babes in the office!" I mean, come the hell on. Is it possible that plain women are perceived as more serious in their career intentions than attractive ones? Yes, that is possible. Is it possible that the attractive women skewed younger looking than the plain ones and people didn't want to hire kids? Why yes, that is also possible. Is it possible that there's a cultural bias in Israel against attractive women? Hey, that too could be an explanation! But no, let's immediately start talking about how women are jealous of other women. Those crazy women! All they ever think about is what other women look like! Oh yeah, absolutely.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:16 PM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


However ... citing female jealousy as the reason still seems really pulled out of thin air to me. They offer little to support it.

I agree that there are other possible alternatives that they didn't adequately address. Their whole conclusion may well be bunk; I'm just trying to make sure we're criticizing the right parts if you see what I mean. The critiques of studies posted to Metafilter often end up going the same way with people cloaking a gut reaction to a study as rational criticism of the study's construction and I think that is problematic. It's important to separate our feelings about results and our analysis of those results.

My gut says that they are indeed really jumping the gun on the jealousy thing. But as you say this is an issue with their conclusions, not their methodology and we should not assume their methodology is flawed just because we think their conclusions are probably bunk.
posted by Justinian at 4:30 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


And note that that it is perfectly possible and in this case maybe even likely for their conclusions to be utter bullshit even if their methodology is absolutely above board. Just making sure I'm being clear.
posted by Justinian at 4:32 PM on November 24, 2010


The height discrimination is stronger for men than for women.

Now, I know someone will point out that men on average still make more than women on average. But there are many possible reasons for this other than gender discrimination, since men and women behave differently in all sorts of ways. By the same token, maybe taller people are more confident, and that's what leads to their higher salaries. In that case, there'd be a correlation, but not necessarily causation, between height and salary.


I am unable to search for a link at the moment, but didn't another study disprove the whole height/earning power correlation? As I recall, the counterargument was that there is a subgroup who are short because of childhood malnutrition, which leads to poorer IQs, which leads to poorer earning power. If you take only people who are genetically short there would be no correlation. [apologies for being a lazyass w/regard to cites]
posted by benzenedream at 5:06 PM on November 24, 2010


Came in here to pretty much express dismay at the out of thin air conclusion but Sidhedevil and kyrademon have expressed most of what I wanted to say.

More anecdata: I work for a small media company owned and run by a woman and we have several attractive women on staff, from 20-50. We have one man in the office, and two other male freelancers.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:04 PM on November 24, 2010


grind grind grind grind

nothing can be interesting on its own merits anymore it's always about the patriarchy
posted by tehloki at 6:39 PM on November 24, 2010


If you want to explain attractive women getting lower callback rates than plain and no-picture women while that effect is not observed for men, then you have to explain why this happens for in-house recruiters but not employment agencies. I could think of tons of potential explanations: one is that sexual discrimination is more likely for an attractive woman and will affect the employer but not the agency, another is that an attractive woman is more likely to get pregnant and have to leave the workplace for an extended time. Another is that attractive women are mostly younger. Jealousy is a bit of a stretch, but it's a provocative hypothesis that got us all to read the paper.

Overall I'm not sure there's a specific cause of most discrimination. People's biases are formed very young, transmit easily through a culture, and are very hard to change. It is not obvious to me that biases would play out the same way in the US or Europe. If it's true that employment agencies are less biased than in-house HR, then companies should switch to employment agencies...there's no need to come up with a cause and then try to fix it.
posted by miyabo at 7:32 PM on November 24, 2010


I'm sort of blown away by the idea that someone would include a picture in a resume for a job that's not acting or modeling. I've never seen such a thing in the US and I'm pretty sure that most HR departments would reject one without even evaluating it for fear of a lawsuit.
posted by octothorpe at 7:39 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, boy.
I guess I need a haircut and a shave. Oh, and a new wardrobe couldn't hurt.
Okay. A work-out plan. Plastic surgery, too.

Nevermind. I'm not going to include a headshot.
posted by MHPlost at 9:30 PM on November 24, 2010


Also, look at the makeup of the test population: as you see on the last page with the data on Table 10, the male test applicant population was 130 attractive vs. 69 plain, whereas the female test applicant population was 107 attractive vs. 114 plain.

I don't really have a dog in this fight, but the nit-picker in me wants to observe that these numbers (130 vs 69 and 107 vs 114) aren't the makeup of the test population: they are the makeup of the CVs that got callbacks. There are not many details about the actual photos they sent out (i.e., the test population), but it looks like there were around 161 photos (78 males and 83 females, from which they culled a few) sent with 5312 CVs. I do wish there were more details about how the photos of male vs female were equated for attractiveness, and how different high vs low in each sex was, but the numbers above (130 vs 69 and 107 vs 114) probably don't themselves say anything about how objective the rating system was.
posted by forza at 12:44 AM on November 25, 2010


I'm sort of blown away by the idea that someone would include a picture in a resume for a job that's not acting or modeling. I've never seen such a thing in the US and I'm pretty sure that most HR departments would reject one without even evaluating it for fear of a lawsuit.

my (german) version of word has a template for cv's that has a reserved space for a portrait. it's really quite common for regular office jobs. alas, I don't know why people do it. it's not a requirement.
posted by krautland at 3:45 AM on November 25, 2010


Yeah, it's totally standard to include a picture in your CV in Germany (I even learnt that in school in the lesson on "How to apply for a job"). It used to be more or less required 15 years ago. Now this is changing slowly.

I don't think it's a good idea either, for reasons of gender and racial discrimination. But, you know, sometimes the American attitude of "We do it this way! How could anyone do it otherwise! I'm blown away by how people could do it otherwise!" gets a bit tiresome... I know that if I had to hire someone, I'd like to see their picture.

(Another crazy detail on German CVs that will blow American minds: People used to include a line on their parents' jobs in their CV in applications for internships or stipends and such. Sounds totally crazy but people used to do it just something like 10 years ago. I did it too, and it actually helped! The guy hiring me for an internship congratulated me on my "excellent family background", as if picking my parents were a great achievement of mine. But I think - I hope - this is probably out of fashion by now.)

Germans, by the way, are totally blown away by the fact that Americans don't state their date of birth on their CV. Seems patently silly to us.
posted by The Toad at 9:57 AM on November 25, 2010



Germans, by the way, are totally blown away by the fact that Americans don't state their date of birth on their CV. Seems patently silly to us.

We've decided that discrimination based on age is both common and unfair. Whether it's unfair or not is sort of arbitrary, but that's how we roll, and why we do that. It's not an appropriate question for an interview, either. Age discrimination still occurs, but is based on indicators of age (previous experience, appearance) rather than actual age.
posted by nathan v at 10:03 AM on November 25, 2010


I (a woman, youngish, attractive under the right lighting) used to do a fair bit of hiring in my old job.

Only ever had one person include their photo with a resume and it was a young, attractive woman.

I made a shortlist of interviewees based on their resumes and it included the young, attractive woman. I passed it on to my boss, a man, who made a big deal out of me hiring the young, attractive woman who included her photo.

Comments included "give us something to look at around here!". He showed the photo to a few of the other men who worked there and they all said much the same thing.

My reaction? Extreme irritation.

Maybe I was annoyed at his comments not just because they reduced this woman to her looks and also reduced all of us to our looks.

Maybe I was jealous, in a "what are the rest of the women who work here, chopped liver?" kind of way.

I mean, by implying this young woman should be hired as the office eye-candy, he made it seem like the rest of us were ugly.

And maybe I don't want people judging me on my looks at all in a workplace setting. If they're judging her, aren't they also judging me? Where did I put my invisibility cloak, etc.

And yes, maybe a small part of me did judge her for including her photo. Not so much jealousy but more a sense of "who thinks they're such hot stuff they should put a photo on their resume?" Actually, this may have been a big reaction. Who does she think she is?

So, I pointed the rather demeaning nature of his comments out to my boss, who accused me of feeling jealous of youngish attractive woman. He said I wanted to penalise her for being attractive.

I said he was being a dickhead. I also said she'd probably be mortified to realise her photo was being passed around men at the office and they were making comments about her. A small argument ensued. No winner was declared.

We ended up interviewing this young, attractive woman and my boss and I decided she wasn't right for the job, for various reasons, which I don't think had anything to do with her looks. She was lovely and unpretentious and even more attractive in the flesh, but just not the right fit. As it was we hired another young attractive woman who did an excellent job.

The moral of the story: oh god I don't know. That photos in resumes are a big no-no unless you're a model or a TV anchor? That people have complex reactions to other peoples' looks? That men and women alike are complicit in judging and degrading other human beings? That the patriarchy has its claws in all of us?
posted by jasperella at 5:36 PM on November 25, 2010


I don't really have a dog in this fight, but the nit-picker in me wants to observe that these numbers (130 vs 69 and 107 vs 114) aren't the makeup of the test population: they are the makeup of the CVs that got callbacks

As a fellow non-dog person, even if those numbers were the makeup of the test population, that is not by itself evidence that the attractiveness criterion were flawed or that the sample was biased, in the same way that flipping a coin 200 times and coming up with 130 heads isn't by itself evidence that the coin isn't fair. That result simply is an outcome that we should expect to happen a certain percentage of the time.

I don't think this is nitpicking; it's basic statistical literacy. Making this point distracts from other, useful things that might be said about the study, and casts doubt about the point makers ability to say such useful things.
posted by Kwine at 6:19 AM on November 26, 2010


That result simply is an outcome that we should expect to happen a certain percentage of the time.

The main result of the study -- attractive women get fewer callbacks than no-picture women -- had a p value of 0.004. There's a 1-in-250 chance that the study result was due to random chance. That's about as good as you can do in most kinds of science.
posted by miyabo at 8:21 AM on November 26, 2010


Kwine was, I believe, talking about the attractive/ugly ratio not the number of callbacks.
posted by Justinian at 10:54 AM on November 26, 2010


So if I include a picture of an attractive man on my CV, pulled from a stock photo library (with appropriate dues paid, of course), and get called back -- then don't get hired when they find out the picture wasn't of me -- are they right for not hiring me because I was being dishonest, or wrong for not hiring me because they're discriminating against my looks?
posted by davejay at 8:36 PM on November 26, 2010


The wife's comment was, "it's a dog eat dog world & women are bitches." lol
posted by Pressed Rat at 4:32 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


For French A level we had to translate a newspaper article about a similar experiment with people with facial disfigurements, equal numbers of normal/'disfigured'/disabled did/didn't attach photo to their CV. With photos, calls to interview were equal for disabled/disfigured (lower), without photos disfigured/normal had equal calls to interview but disabled still low, but at interview the hiring/recall rate for normal was far higher than for 'disfigured' - job opportunities were the same rate for disfigured as for disabled, once employers saw their faces.
People 'fixate' on the mouth-eyes triangle, anyone with a disfigurement in that area eg missing eye gets much worse reaction than if it's outside that.
I did used to have a friend whom everyone agreed was stunningly beautiful, (they volunteered that independently i never asked,) and it was noticeable that she got EVERY job she went for, immediately. She was in complete denial about her looks, she thought she was plain, maybe that helped. It wasn't so great though, because a lot of the jobs she got were crap. I am really ugly and female, and i was always given the job out back eg the other girl would get to waitress, i had to scrub dishes: i've noticed that, despite now resembling a man in a wig i don't find i'm at all descriminated against, that i'm aware of, despite definitely being far uglier now. Whereas it was routine when i was younger. They'd take one look at my face, their expression would change, and they'd send me to the stockroom.
(I grew my hair after the constant 'sir' really got to me; i actually don't mind, because i've always felt sexless, i feel i've just grown to resemble what i felt, and all older ugly people seem to lose their gender in their face and drift to the sexless; only the pretty look 'masculine' or 'feminine' when old. This used to be hidden by the strict gender-based dress codes of previous generations, but old hippies are making it obvious. I minded being constantly classed wrong, I don't know why though. I used to get constant shouted abuse from young men, mostly, sometimes young women or children, along the lines of 'you look like a man' and 'you're so ugly', like i didn't know and i asked them, and i felt physically very intimidated so didn't respond as i feared a fight.) So i grew my hair and i now look like a chap in a long blonde wig. But that's fine with everyone. I was reminded of an interview with US prisoners, in which a gay guy said he suffered terribly until he donned nail polish and eye shadow, and then they left him alone: the offence is to be unclassifiable.
posted by maiamaia at 4:40 PM on November 27, 2010


I couldn't find the paper, but i would suspect one explanation would also be the different interpretation of the person's motive in attaching a photo, in women this might be seen as seductive: most headshots i've seen recently were for chatlines, for instance. Few men would be suspected of that. If it's any consolation for blokes, women are perceived as less helpful for being equally helpful, due to gender bias expectations whereby what counts as helpful coming from a man is seen as normal behaviour for a woman, so you can win brownie points easier...
Also my man, who thinks with his xxxx and doesn't shut his mouth unfortunately, but cannot be accused of dishonesty, once spent ages going on about how some woman had come to the interview in trousers (in the 80s, when skirts were de rigeur to interviews) to get the job by, let me call it seduction. As he is not very articulate, after much argument it emerged that he meant, that trousers (80s ones, anyway) form wrinkles around the crotch and she must have worn them to make everyone look at her crotch. ???? It's not possible to get inside some people's minds....
posted by maiamaia at 4:49 PM on November 27, 2010


I came back to MF to post a link to this article only to find it here. Oh how I wish I could reopent the MT thread here where people thought I am crazy/sexist to think that women compete aggressively with one another.

Just made it to the front page of Yahoo btw.
posted by chinabound at 12:59 AM on December 3, 2010


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