Topic: Fairness, Gender, Selection
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (JAN 2011)
Article: When It Comes to Pay, Do the Thin Win? The Effect of Weight on Pay for Men and Women
Authors: T.A. Judge, D.M. Cable
Reviewed By: Ben Sher
Does career success have anything to do with what you look like? According to a recent study by Judge and Cable (2011), the answer is yes.
From the same people who explained that height may influence salary (Judge & Cable, 2004), now it seems weight can also influence salary. Drawing from cultivation theory, or the idea that people are slowly drawn to accept social norms promoted by the media, they say it literally pays to be the “ideal” weight.
So what exactly is the “ideal” weight? Not surprisingly, the answer is different for men and women. The authors say underweight men are actually punished with smaller salaries, presumably because they have violated gender-role norms by being too skinny. Men are paid more with increased weight, up to the point of obesity, when salaries start to gradually decline. For women, a very different pattern emerged. Underweight women had the highest salaries, and salaries decreased with additional weight gain.
But not all weight gain is equal. In one study, the salary decrease between average versus underweight women was twice the decrease between average weight women and overweight women. According to the researchers, this is because the media has long been portraying increasingly thinner women as being ideally attractive, and the workplace has discriminated accordingly. Once women violate this ideal and become average weight, they may already be seen as “letting themselves go” so any further weight gain isn’t as detrimental.